A Short Eulogy For Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys

May 5, 2012


Adam Yauch, one of the founding members of legendary hip-hop group The Beastie Boys has passed away from cancer at the age of 47.  The Beastie Boys, though saddled with the silly name, is one of the most important bands in hip-hop and rock and roll, and also to me personally, and his passing away has saddened me deeply.

Yauch was one of the founding members of the band, starting off as a punk rock group while still in high school.  After switching to a sort of hybrid of rock and rap, the group released the album Licensed To Ill, which was enormously successful, particularly for the dopey, funny, childish and incredibly catchy “Fight For Your Right (To Party).”

Most people wrote them off – reasonably – at this point as a one-hit wonder who got lucky with a gimmicky hit.  Instead, they stunned everyone by releasing a work of genius for their second album, Paul’s Boutique, after deciding that they wanted to become musicians, not just pop stars.  It was, of course, a complete commercial failure, but set them on a course of actively learning more about the musical culture in which they operated, and pushing their artistic boundaries (which is not to lay an overly-somber yoke on them – they always continued to flat out rock).

*I wrote about their beginnings long ago, when the blog was new and I had no readers, wanting to chronicle their development album by album.  I gave up after the first two, because it was no fun discussing music in a vacuum.  Now I wish I’d kept at it.  If you’re interested, here’s my dissection of their dopey first album, and the transformative second album.*

They would continue to, in many ways, define and influence the musical landscape of the 1990’s.   Determined to continually expand, they learned instruments, experimented in jazz, and reflected on the history of their genre itself.  Yauch himself grew from the silly teen-ager in to a filmmaker, an ardent social activist, and committed buddhist.

Yauch was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and seemed to improve considerably for a while, but the cancer returned and he finally succumbed.

I’m very sorry for his family and friends, and for all of the fans. Thank you, Mr. Yauch, for everything.  I am truly saddened to see you go.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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17 Comments on “A Short Eulogy For Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys”

  1. susielindau Says:

    That is so sad!
    Cayman Thorn suggested “Fight for your right,” for my “party” the other day. He died at such a young age….


  2. ghfool Says:

    I wrote a song in his honor, but it took your post to make me cry. Thanks, B-Man.


  3. Valentine Logar Says:

    Was never a fan of their initial outings, but my youngest son kept saying to me….’just listen to some of their stuff mom, you’ll see’. He was right, they matured and they got many things right. Funny how as they matured and grew into their talent, they lost so much of their commercial success, I have always wondered why that happens to so many of the talented.

    Adam most especially, became an extraordinary person. He, like so many others before him sought ways to communicate and give back beyond his original genre. I also feel great sympathy for all those who loved him.

    You did a very nice job with this (and the originals).


    • MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

      My son also is responsible for converting me into a BB fan! Love ’em or not, they had talent, & I think their sound really opened things up for other bands like Linkin Park and Rage Against the Machine (also huge favs here ).
      What makes this so touching is the BB always seemed genuine, ‘good guys’. Well written tribute, Byronic….


  4. sj Says:

    I have been a complete wreck since yesterday. I…honestly, the last time I cried like this about the passing of a musician was when George Harrison died.

    I have no words to express how very much their music meant to me as I was growing up. They grew along with me.

    Thanks for this post.


  5. She's a Maineiac Says:

    My husband and I are big fans so we were both taken aback and saddened by his passing. I will be sure to read your other links.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I had one of my “denial” moments. My wife said that Yauch had died, and my immediate reaction was, “No he didn’t. He was getting better. You read that wrong.”


  6. Angie Z. Says:

    Very sad news indeed. I had no idea he was even ill. I can still remember the first time I saw “Fight for Your Right” on Yo! MTV Raps. But back then I thought “your right to party” involved your parents letting you eat cake and ice cream or something. I loved it all the same. Sabotage was one of my favorite songs and videos in college. Mustaches suddenly were campy-cool after that. RIP, MCA.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Yeah, they delayed their last album because of his health, but then seemed to indicated that he’d recovered. It wasn’t long after that, though, that he was unable to attend the induction in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of poor health.

      And, you know, cake & ice cream are worth fighting for, too.


  7. every record tells a story Says:

    I just read your dissection of Paul’s Boutique. A better tribute you could not have written. RIP


  8. pithypants Says:

    I was discussing this with friends Friday night. We decided the Beastie Boys is one of the groups that will be half of a “Beatles/RollingStones” type debate for anyone whose formative years were the ’80s.


  9. madtante Says:

    I dedicated my own little work that night (after several drinks-heh, oh dear–spelled his name wrong ;p). I really, really loved the Beasties2.0 (including their jazz–one of my friends had everything they recorded and I mean stuff that wasn’t for sale, too).


  10. spilledinkguy Says:

    Oh man! I hadn’t even heard this yet…
    so sad…


  11. Lenore Diane Says:

    Well done, Byronic. The two posts you sent us back to, too. Great job.


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