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By Lobsang Wangyal
Adam Yauch, a founding member of pioneering American hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, and an advocate of the Tibetan freedom struggle, has died at age 47 after a three-year battle with cancer, according to the band’s publicist.
The New York-based musician had been undergoing treatment for cancer since doctors discovered a tumor in his salivary gland in 2009. He had also sought help from traditional Tibetan doctors in Dharamshala, India, for treatment.
Yauch, better known by his stage name MCA, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 5 August 1964. He taught himself to play bass guitar in high school and co-founded the Beastie Boys with his two friends, Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horowitz (Ad-Roc), for his 17th birthday party. Their breakout album was 1986, “License to Ill,” which featured the hit “Fight for Your Right (To Party).”
The band 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, which won them three Grammys, and the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award.
Yauch was also the founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting awareness and activism regarding the injustices perpetrated on Tibetans by the Chinese regime. 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 US soil since 1985’s Live Aid. The Tibetan Freedom Concert was then produced in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, Sydney, Amsterdam, Taipei and other cities over the years for about a decade.
While the band remained active in music over the decades, Yauch went on to produce movies and founded a film production company called Oscilloscope Laboratories, which in 2008 released his directorial film debut, the basketball documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot. Yauch directed numerous videos for the group under the pseudonym of Nathanial Hörnblowér, including: “So Whatcha Want,” “Intergalactic,” “Body Movin” and “Ch-Check It Out.”
Last month when Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ad-Rock and Mike D read a letter from Yauch thanking both his bandmates and the group’s fans. Yauch didn’t attend because of illness.
Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and his daughter, Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.