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August 5: Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys

August 5, 2013

RDF11039Musician, filmmaker, and human rights activist Adam “MCA” Yauch, a founder of the Beastie Boys, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1964. He formed the band as a four-member punk group in 1981. By 2010, as a hip-hop trio (with Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz), the Beastie Boys had sold 40 million records worldwide. By then, Yauch was struggling with the cancer that would take his life in 2012, just a month after his band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Born to a Jewish mother, Yauch was a practicing Buddhist who was deeply involved in the Tibetan independence and human rights movements. He was the founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories, the film company that released “A Film Unfinished,” the documentary based on Nazi propaganda films about Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Yauch was also committed to women’s rights and LGBTQ equality; in 1999, the Beastie Boys sent a letter to Time Out New York apologizing for homophobic and sexist lyrics on their earlier recordings, and then released the song, “Sure Shot,” in which Yauch sang that he wanted “to say a little something that’s long overdue/ The disrespect to women has got to be through/ To all the mothers and sisters and wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end.” In his will, Yauch insisted that his songs not be used for commercial advertising. To see them performing “Right Right Now” on television, look below.

“[T]he strange thing about making a record: You can be in one mood for an hour, put it on a record, and you’re remembered that way.”—Adam Yauch