Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys has died

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Adam Yauch (aka MCA of the Beastie Boys) has died. He was 47. Forming the Beastie Boys as a teenager in Brooklyn in the late '70s, Yauch was part of a pivotal assembly of artists that defined rap music for the radio. Early incarnations of the group shifted genres and changed members, but Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horowitz finalized the trio with Yauch in the early '80s, and stayed intact through more than three decades together.

Yauch's voice stood out from the shouts of his wise-guy counterparts; he was the calm in the Beastie's storm, a simultaneously smooth and gravelly purveyor of New York street knowledge. One of the first acts to sign to Def Jam -- and one of the Simmons/Rubin collaborations to do extremely well early on -- the group would eventually form its own label, Grand Royal, in the '90s, arguably the decade in which the Beasties shined the brightest.

From party rappers to Tibetan freedom fighters to feminists and cultural historians, the Beastie Boys mixed politics with art freely as they matured before the music world's eyes. Keeping themselves honest and relevant to fans, they rapped through endless tours, eight full-length albums -- 40 million selling, worldwide -- multiple Grammy nominations and wins, and last year, an induction into the Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame (as the third rap act ever to do so.)

But that induction did not see the Beasties take the stage; since his 2009 diagnosis of cancer of the parotid gland and lymph node, MCA had been struggling to recover, and his band-brothers stood by him. Mike D and Ad-Rock put off tours, delayed the release of 2011's Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, and regretfully declined to perform at the Hall Of Fame this year without their counterpart.

Thankfully, MCA and the Beasties' positive cultural impact will live on through the group's massive catalog of music, videos, film, apparel, art and its own corner of New York City lore.

Page down to read the statement released by Nasty Little Man just a bit ago, along with a list of the Beastie Boys live dates in Denver.

From Nasty Little Man:

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.

Here is a list of shows the Beastie Boys played in Denver:

November 3, 2008 - The Fillmore Auditorium August 17, 2007 - The Fillmore Auditorium August 16, 2007 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre September 9, 2004 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre August 5, 1998 - McNichols Arena May 1, 1995 - Denver Coliseum May 1, 1995 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Cancelled) July 9, 1994 - Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre (Lollapalooza) August 11, 1992 - CU Fieldhouse June 5, 1992 - Gothic Theatre February 13, 1987 - Paramount Theatre Mammoth Event Center

(Source: Beastiemania.com // Westword archives // reader input)

MCA performing with the Beastie 8/17/07 at Fillmore

Backbeat wrote up the Check Your Head album, which had just turned twenty years old.

Please feel free to leave memories of seeing the group live in the comments section. We'd love to read them.

More Beastie Boys coverage in Westword over the years:

- Beastie Boys's Licensed to Ill turns 25

- The Beastie Boys's "Fight For Your Right - Revisited" trailer is awesome

- In honor of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two : A look at the Beastie Boys' top five videos

- Giving The Beastie Boys's Hello Nasty another shot after a dozen years

- Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch has cancer, Beasties cancel all dates

- Animals at Risk mash-up Beastie Boys with Ideal Fathers

- Rock the Vote: Beastie Boys and Tenacious D at the Fillmore

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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