Adam Yauch, best-known as a member of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died at age 47, reports Rolling Stone. Yauch, also a founder of indie distribution label Oscilloscope Laboratories (“Wendy and Lucy,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin”) was diagnosed with cancer after discovering a salivary gland tumor in 2009. Yauch directed many Beastie Boys’ music videos as Nathaniel Hornblower.
Significantly, Yauch did not attend the Beastie Boys’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in April, and the release of Beastie Boys’ latest album was delayed due to his illness.
I got to meet Yauch through Oscilloscope; this is sad sad news. The timing of distribution chief David Fenkel’s transitioning to a consulting role –he was exploring new opportunities–couldn’t have been more awkward. Nobody knew that Yauch was as ill as he was; even this week he was actively communicating with the company via email. Fenkel will stay on to steer the ship, says spokesperson Cynthia Swartz: “Given today’s events, I can confirm that David Fenkel will remain intimately involved for the foreseeable future.”
UPDATE: Here’s a statement on the passing of Adam Yauch from his Oscilloscope Lab colleagues Fenkel, Dan Berger and David Laub on behalf of the entire company:
“We are deeply, deeply saddened by the passing of Adam Yauch – an amazing leader, a dear friend and an incredible human being. Today we are heartbroken at Oscilloscope as we take in this awful news and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. Adam’s legacy will remain a driving force at Oscilloscope – his indomitable spirit and his great passion for film, people, and hard work – always with a sense of humor and a lot of heart.”
While Yauch helped to launch Oscilloscope and remained its leader, the company continued business as usual during his illness over the last three years, and has become a self-sufficient distribution operation.
It would be sad to lose what was an effective and determined alternative indie label. We need as many of them as we can find.
Here is a statement from the band:
ADAM YAUCH 1964-2012
It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam “MCA” Yauch, founding member of Beastie Boys and also of the Milarepa Foundation that produced the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits, and film production and distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories, passed away in his native New York City this morning after a near-three-year battle with cancer. He was 47 years old.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Yauch taught himself to play bass in high school, forming a band for his 17th birthday party that would later become known the world over as Beastie Boys.
With fellow members Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Adrock” Horovitz, Beastie Boys would go on to sell over 40 million records, release four #1 albums–including the first hip hop album ever to top the Billboard 200, the band’s 1986 debut full length, Licensed To Ill–win three Grammys, and the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award. Last month Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of Yauch, who was unable to attend.
In addition to his hand in creating such historic Beastie Boys albums as Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and more, Yauch was a founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and activism regarding the injustices perpetrated on native Tibetans by Chinese occupational government and military forces. In 1996, Milarepa produced the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which was attended by 100,000 people, making it the biggest benefit concert on U.S. soil since 1985’s Live Aid. The Tibetan Freedom Concert series would continue to stage some of the most significant benefit shows in the world for nearly a decade following in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, Sydney, Amsterdam, Taipei and other cities.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, Milarepa organized New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefit headlined by Beastie Boys at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, with net proceeds disbursed to the New York Women’s Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) September 11th Fund for New Americans–each chosen for their efforts on behalf of 9/11 victims least likely to receive help from other sources.
Under the alias of Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch directed iconic Beastie Boys videos including “So Whatcha Want,” “Intergalactic,” “Body Movin” and “Ch-Check It Out.” Under his own name, Yauch directed last year’s Fight For Your Right Revisited, an extended video for “Make Some Noise” from Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, starring Elijah Wood, Danny McBride and Seth Rogen as the 1986 Beastie Boys, making their way through a half hour of cameo-studded misadventures before squaring off against Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Beastie Boys of the future.
Yauch’s passion and talent for filmmaking led to his founding of Oscilloscope Laboratories, which in 2008 released his directorial film debut, the basketball documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot and has since become a major force in independent video distribution, amassing a catalogue of such acclaimed titles as Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy, Oren Moverman’s The Messenger, Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop, Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze’s Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait Of Maurice Sendak, and many more.
Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.