Remembering Brooklyn Heights Native Beastie Boy MC Adam Yauch

Beastie Boys member MC Adam “MCA” Yauch, who died today at age 47 from cancer, grew up in Brooklyn Heights, where he taught himself to play bass as a teen and formed the trio with Mike “Mike D” Diamond & Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz on his 17th birthday. Mike D, meanwhile, was a graduate of local St. Ann’s School.

Despite bios alleging Yauch was raised in Midwood, Brooklyn, he actually attended Edward R. Murrow High School in that nabe and was raised in the Heights, according to numerous obituary posts Friday.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued the following statement: “Brooklyn, the Creative Capital of New York City, has made so many great contributions to music and the arts, and in the world of hip hop, they don’t come much bigger than Brooklyn native Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch and his fellow Beastie Boys. Of course, Adam’s home borough was immortalized in the Beastie Boys’ 1987 hit, ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn,’ and he never forgot where he came from with lyrics like ‘Open Letter to NYC’’s ‘At lunch I’d go to Blimpies down on Montague Street and hit the Fulton Street Mall for the sneakers on my feet.'”

Yauch was an only child, the son of painter Frances and architect Noel Yauch. After forming the Beasties, then a hardcore punk band, the white trio meshed punk and rap into a singular sensation, breaking through hip-hop racial barriers with blockbuster 1986 album “Licensed to Ill” on Russell Simmons’ Def Jam Records. The trio is regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop acts of all time, and helped turn the genre into a mainstream force around the world. Beastie Boys are, of course, best known for teen angst anthem “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).” In all, the group sold 40 million albums and had four No. 1 records.

Yauch also directed Beastie Boys’ videos as well as 2008 basketball documentary “Gunnin’ for #1 Spot,” and he ran a film production and distribution company. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

He was diagnosed with a cancerous salivary gland in 2009, and had been undergoing treatment for a cancerous parotid gland and a lymph node, which prevented him from attending the Beasties April induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. The group had not performed together since 2009.

BHB reader Hoppy recognizes that the group had Brooklyn Heights in its blood and lyrics in this OTW comment: “I’m saddened by the death of Brooklyn Heights’ own MCA.”

Some locally relevant lyrics:
“Every Morning I Took The Train To High Street Station
Doing Homework On The Train, What A F**ked Up Situation”

-Root Down

“So I’m out pickin’ pockets at the Atlantic Antic
And nobody wants to hear you cause your rhymes are so frantic”


Mrs. Fink adds via Facebook: “In 2004’s ‘Open Letter to NYC,’ Adam Yauch prayed ‘Dear New York I hope you’re doing well/I know a lot’s happen and you’ve been through hell/So we give thanks for providing a home.’ I always thought if it as a prayer somehow… And, in turn, I wish the same for him on this next step of his journey.”

And BHB founder Homer Fink offers: “The Beastie Boys influenced a generation. As program director of WNYU backintheday, your humble publisher got to witness the birth of the band. My old pal Timmy Sommer helped them along by playing their music on his legendary “Noise the Show.” This intro was immortalized on the band’s 1994 compilation Some Old Bullshit:

Our thoughts are with Yauch’s family and our many friends who worked with him closely for most of the band’s career.”

Please share your thoughts below.

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  • Matthew Parker

    RIP MCA. The Beastie’s were a part of my life growing up in Bklyn. Great music, innovative, talented, and glad I saw them play McCarren Park Pool a few years ago–oddly, the only time they ever played Bklyn.

  • PBL

    RIP MCA. I had the pleasure of seeing the Beastie Boys live at Lollapalooza 1994 at Randall’s Island. Sure, the Smashing Pumpkins were the “headliners,” but the BB stole the show. On a side note, the opening band — an up and coming band from Oakland — turned out ok too (Green Day).

  • Homer Fink

    @pbl – my alter ego interviewed green day and the Tibetan monks traveling with the Beasties at the show for my radio show on wdre. a crazy and very memorable day as there was a huge rain storm in the afternoon and the field was quite muddy…

  • PBL

    Homer, that’s awesome! Would love to see the transcript from that interview if you are open to sharing.

    That was an amazing day (what I remember of it anyway, as 19-year old PBL may have had a few too many …).

  • BH’er

    I’ll never forget the day I met MCA, nor will I ever forget what he said through the headphones of my sony walkman cassette player,

    “Now my name is M.C.A. -I’ve got a license to kill
    I think you know what time it is -it’s time to get ill
    Now what do we have here -an outlaw and his beer

    I run this land, you understand -I make myself clear
    We stepped into the wind -he had a gun, I had a grin
    You think this story’s over but it’s ready to begin…”

    we had no idea – nor could any have foreseen – the influence that he, Ad and Mike D. would have on me and my friends and a generation of music


  • PierrepontSkin

    RIP MCA. The Beastie Boys continue to be one of my biggest musical influences.

    @Matt Parker, they definitely did play Brooklyn more that once. They played a show in 1995 at Coney Island High with hardcore greats, Sick Of It All. The only thing was that they were on the bill as “Quasar”, not The Beastie Boys.

  • She’s Crafty

    Sad that no one else who grew up in the neigb has commented. Yauch went to Friends and grew up on Baltic and then on State Streets. His father is the architect who really was responsible for the renonovation of brownstones in the 70s from buildings of flats into one and two family homes. This is very sad news.

  • Alex

    @PierrepontSkin Yes, but Coney Island High was in Manhattan, not Brooklyn (was on St Marks Place back in the 90s in the East Village). I was at that show in 95, and it was brilliant (tix were available at St Marks Comics). The club was owned by the dudes who were in D Generation. And let’s not forget that Kate Schellenbach from Luscious Jackson was the original drummer of the band. How cool were the Beasties to have a female drummer back in the day at a time when punk was still such a boys’ scene? For any huge fan, Some Old Bullshit is just a gem of an album, full of great clip art and notes not only from Beasties history, but from NYC in the eighties, too. I used to see Yauch kicking it on Atlantic Avenue all the time and was too starstruck to say hi. He was a generous, charismatic and all around great guy, judging from the few interactions I had with him. I am so deeply grateful for his life’s work and the legacy of social responsibility he has left for younger musicians.

  • Matthew Parker

    @PierrepontSkin: Interesting. When they played McCarren Park a few year ago, Mike D told the audience that was the only time they ever played Brooklyn. I once saw Mike D. in Bklyn when he had a band called Big Fat Love (they sucked), but it certainly wasn’t the Beasties.

  • Eddyenergizer

    I remember Adam from back in the daze when the nabe teens all hung out on Pierrepont & Monroe… though he didn’t hang out too much after the Beasties made it big…