The Null Device
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 role in the Beastie Boys (who started off as a crossover between hardcore punk and rap, taking turns to rhyme cartoonishly crude lyrics over sampled Led Zeppelin breaks, and then evolved into something more subtle though no less dynamic, even putting out two albums of instrumental loungecore grooves), Yauch, a practicing Buddhist, also made and distributed films and was involved in activism, organising a benefit concert for the rights of Tibetans under Chinese rule and, more recently, marching with the Occupy movement.
Meanwhile, Pitchfork has a piece on how MCA offered a relatable blueprint for growing up, in both his art and his life:
The Beastie Boys turned curiosity into a form of art. They wanted to know more about what was around them and learn everything they could about what wasn't. Forget about Kurt Cobain for a second: For kids like me, the Beastie Boys invented the 90s. Technology was changing fast and the world was shrinking rapidly. Between their music and label/magazine Grand Royal, the Beasties showed how to reach out and scoop up all the best parts. New York hip-hop and punk rock, Japanese pop, Jamaican dub-- all of it could be gathered and re-assembled into something that reflected who you were. This sort of cultural mixing was nothing new, but the Beastie Boys brought it to the mainstream. They were ambassadors, but their hipness didn't look down on anybody. It felt inclusive.
MCA was the spiritual center of the trio, even before he became a student of Tibetan Buddhism. There was a certain kind of Beastie Boys track that I liked to call a "State of MCA" dispatch, starting with "A Year and a Day" from Paul's Boutique. The group was known for its 70s references and corny jokes, but these MCA songs hinted at a yearning for something deeper.The piece ends with a piece of everyday philosophy from MCA:
There's an instrumental on Ill Communication called "Futterman's Rule". The only lyrics listed in the booklet say, "When two are served, all may eat." It turned out to be a reference to a community ritual that was dear to Yauch. In a later issue of Grand Royal, there was a short piece explaining that Gene Futterman was a professional chef and a friend of Adam Yauch's family. He was known for his large dinner parties and when he brought food in from the kitchen he would tell his guests: "When two are served, you eat!"
The elegance of Futterman's Rule does lend it a hint of spirituality. One eats one's food while it is hot, observing dinner as a natural continuum (instead of the top-down, "no-one-eats-until-the-chef-is-ready" hierarchical model that dominates most households). At the same time, no one eats alone (it is only once two people are served, and a social base is established for those with food, that one may begin to eat). If form follows function, the Rule is built to travel. So give it a try. And if you like it, tell a friend.Meanwhile, Stereogum has 20 Great Adam Yauch Moments.
Adam Yauch leaves behind a wife and daughter, two living parents and a world that's slightly less enlightened than when he walked on it. Here passes a true mensch.