Today is the eighth anniversary of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s unfortunate passing from cancer at the age of 47. It’s no debate the Beastie Boys were at the heart and soul of New York’s underground music scene in the mid 1980’s, creatively forging hip-hop and hard rock into a new style of songwriting that’s still emulated by thousands of budding basement musicians. The trio (Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horowitz and Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond) hit it big in 1986 with their Def Jam debut License To Ill, which sold ten million copies and featured “Fight For You Right (To Party),” “No Sleep Til Brooklyn,” “Brass Monkey” and “Girls.”
Writer Tim Donnelly recounted an epic time spent with Yauch back in the nineties during the early days of Lollapallooza, complete with a soccer match against Tibetan monks, a pre-show basketball showdown with Yauch and a six-foot six-inch Doc Marten-wearing, slam-dunking Billy Corgan.
Donnelly also offered a glimpse into the budding deeper side of Yauch, who evolved spiritually and used his musical success as a launching page into becoming a social activist. A practicing Buddhist, Yauch went on to establish 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.
“At this stage of his life, Adam Yauch had devoted his life to Buddhism,” Donnelly wrote in Huck Magazine. “He brought Tibetan monks on the tour with him, who in turn blessed the Lollapalooza stage before each show. This was not some self-indulgent rock star move by Yauch. It was a real and ingenious way to introduce the plight of these humble, religious and persecuted men to the youth of America.”
After the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, Yauch and 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.
American Songwriter pays tribute to Yauch and his pioneering band’s sonic assault with two diverse videos. First up is their 1986 “No Sleep Til Brooklyn’ official video, complete with 80s hair metal cameos and a ripping guitar solo from Slayer’s Kerry King.
Following that is the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2012, with Horowitz and Diamond reading a speech written by Yauch, who was too ill to attend. Yauch passed away less than a month later.
Tim Donnelly, a Jersey Shore based writer, is currently running the See Hear Now Festival, scheduled for September 19-20, 2020 in Asbury Park, NJ. Headliners for the surf and music include Pearl Jam, The Avett Brothers, Billy Idol, Patti Smith, Cage The Elephant, Lord Huron and more. A who’s who of world-class surfers will also hit the waves along the Asbury Park beach during the weekend. Bruce Springsteen has made an appearance at the inaugural event in 2018, guesting with Social Distortion for two songs.