Adam Yauch, one of the founding members of the pioneering hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys, died Friday (May 4) at the age of 47 following a long battle with throat cancer. Yauch’s death has rattled the music world to its core, with tributes already pouring in from the likes of Justin Timberlake and Russell Simmons to fellow hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC.
Since his 2009 cancer diagnosis, Yauch has stayed away from the public eye, often communicating with concerned fans through email, but during a period of remission, the Grammy-winning rapper stepped forward with his bandmates to release what would be his final album with the Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, and even won an MTV Video Music Award for his direction of the Beasties’ “Make Some Noise” video.
Though he fought his battle with cancer privately, Yauch, a practicing Buddhist, always maintained a tight connection with the Beasties’ fans and continued to work despite the difficult surgeries and treatments he faced. Below, we’ve taken a look back at the last few years of Yauch’s life to showcase the one-of-a-kind music legend’s perseverance in the face of such a difficult battle.
July 20, 2009: Yauch announced in a video posted to BeastieBoys.com that he’d been diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland, a salivary gland in the throat. “The reason we’re here talking is because I have some pretty heavy news to say,” Yauch said in the video. “About two months ago, I started feeling this little lump in my throat, like what you would feel if you have swollen glands or something like that, and so I didn’t really think it was anything. … They did tests, and I actually have a form of cancer in the gland that’s over here, in the parotid gland, and it’s also in the lymph node right in that area.”
Yauch had surgery to remove the tumor and began radiation that same week. Due to his treatment, the Beastie Boys were forced to cancel their summer touring plans, including headlining gigs at the All Points West Festival and Lollapalooza, in addition to delaying the release of their album Hot Sauce Committee: Part One. The album was finally released in May 2011 under the title Hot Sauce Committee Part Two with a slightly altered track list.
August 5, 2009: In an email to subscribers of the Beastie Boys’ newsletter with the subject line “What I did over my summer vacation,” Yauch provided fans with an update on his treatment , writing, “So I’m about a week-and-a-half out of surgery now and rapidly recovering from it. … My neck and jaw are still pretty stiff from the surgery, but it gets better every day. Had the stitches out this past Monday … so things are moving along.”
October 7, 2009: In another email to fans, Yauch wrote about his trip to Dharamsala, India, where he had traveled to see some Tibetan doctors and ended up attending a three-day seminar taught by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. “I’m feeling healthy, strong and hopeful that I’ve beaten this thing, but of course time will tell,” Yauch said in the letter.
March 9, 2010: Yauch attended the Independent Spirit Awards and told reporters that while his recovery had been difficult, he was ready to get back to work . “I feel better. It was touch-and-go there for a while, but I am finally getting my energy back,” Yauch said. “It was really disappointing to have to hold the record and postpone the tour, but doctor’s orders. We may or may not [release the album], depending on how my health is come September. We want to, but we have to play it by ear.”
September 28, 2010: The Beastie Boys receive their first nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
January 21, 2011: “Fight for Your Right Revisited,” a short film directed by Yauch that picks up immediately after the events of the Beastie Boys’ classic “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” video, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival . In the film, Elijah Wood plays Ad-Rock, Seth Rogen portrays Mike D and Danny McBride slips on Yauch’s classic leather jacket to become MCA. “Revisited” begins with the Beasties crawling out of the trashed apartment while the original ’87 tune plays in the background. They head down the stairs and immediately run into the parents of the kids whose party they crashed, played by Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.
April 20, 2011: The video for “Make Some Noise,” the lead single from the Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, debuted, marking the band’s first new musical release since Yauch’s cancer diagnosis. The clip was cut from Yauch’s “Fight for your Right Revisited” short film.
May 3, 2011: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two hits stores nearly two years after the initial planned release of the project. It’s still unclear which songs from the unreleased Part One made it onto the sequel. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard albums chart.
July 20, 2011: “Make Some Noise” scores MTV Video Music Award nominations for Video of the Year and Best Direction for Yauch. The nominations brought the Beastie Boys’ career total VMA noms to eight, which include a Video of the Year nod for the Beasties’ 1994 Spike Jonze-directed classic “Sabotage.”
August 28, 2011: Yauch wins the VMA for Best Direction for “Make Some Noise.” The win is the third for the group, which previously scored a 1999 VMA for Best Hip-Hop Video for “Intergalactic” and the Video Vanguard Award in 1998.
December 17, 2011: It is announced that the Beastie Boys will officially be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
April 14, 2012: The Beastie Boys become the third hip-hop act inducted into the Rock Hall during a ceremony at the Cleveland, Ohio, museum. Though he was unable to attend the ceremony because he was receiving treatment for a recurrence of his cancer, his bandmates paid him a warm tribute and read a letter written by Yauch to the crowd. Fellow inductees the Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated their performance at the ceremony to Yauch.
Tune in to MTV tonight at 8 p.m. for “Adam Yauch: Remembering a Beastie Boy,” an hour-long special hosted by Sway celebrating the life and career of Adam “MCA” Yauch, including his biggest moments and remembrances from his friends and peers. Check out mtvU now for classic Beastie Boys music videos.