Born in Brooklyn in 1964, Yauch formed the Beastie Boys with Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz in 1979. They were initially a hardcore punk band, but eventually changed their style to hip-hop. The trio had a breakout hit in 1986 with their first proper album Licensed To Ill, which included the smash single “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)”. The LP would become the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard 200, and the Boys would go on to win three Grammys and three MTV VMAs.
Yauch’s interests weren’t limited to writing and performing music. He directed many of the Beastie Boys’ music videos, using the pseudonym “Nathanial Hörnblowér”. In 2002, he built Oscilloscope Laboratories, a recording studio and film production company that would release dozens of independent movies, including Yauch’s 2008 feature-film debut, basketball documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, and Banksy‘s critically-acclaimed street art doc, Exit Through The Gift Shop. Yauch, a practicing Buddhist, was heavily involved with the movement to free Tibet, and helped put on the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park 1996, which drew 100,000 people.
In 2009, which marked the thirtieth anniversary of the formation of the band, Yauch revealed he had a cancerous tumor in his left parotid gland. The band canceled their tour and delayed recording their album Hot Sauce Committee Part One, so that Adam could go through treatment.
In April, the Beastie Boys became the third rap group to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Yauch was not able to attend due to his illness, but still had a strong presence at the ceremony: his bandmates read a letter he had written, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers dedicated their performance to Adam, and a special medley of Beastie Boys tunes was performed by The Roots, Kid Rock and Travie McCoy. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony airs this Saturday on HBO.