Today the music and film communities mourn the passing of Adam “MCA” Yauch, the founding member of the Beastie Boys who has lost his battle with cancer at the age of 47.
Despite the Beastie Boys’ raucous antics, MCA was always the contemplative member of the trio. He rarely drew unnecessary attention to himself, opting for the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower when directing the Boys’ music videos. But his commitment to hardcore punk, passion for Buddhism, and investment in altruism provided a guiding force for the group’s evolution.
For a full run-down of the Beasties’ music videos, click here; to get a more personal sense of MCA offstage, click through for our collection of interviews, live performances, and candid moments caught on tape.
The Joan Rivers Show
Once Licensed to Ill went platinum, the Beastie Boys found themselves courted by a mainstream that didn’t know what to do with them. Witness this insane guest spot on The Late Show With Joan Rivers from January 1987, just before the Boys went out on their first headlining tour. After Rivers gets the name of the album wrong, the Boys blow through a spastic “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).” Then the real fun starts, as Yauch takes over behind Rivers’ desk, offers her a “dismembered” apple:
Yo! MTV Raps
In 1989, the Boys hung out with Yo! MTV Raps host Fab 5 Freddy in New York’s Chinatown. This is perhaps the band at its most comfortable, cracking jokes and geeking out over one of their favorite neighborhoods with a hip-hop icon on the genre’s biggest TV space. Wait for the moment they all join in to sing along on friend and collaborator Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.”
A tribute to Yauch wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by his alter ego Nathaniel Hornblower, supposedly the Swiss-born, lederhosen-clad director of the bulk of the group’s music videos. That accent is killer, and that hat is even better.
The Beastie Boys co-headlined Perry Farrell’s traveling circus in the summer of 1994, perhaps the last time the touring version of that festival was firing on all cylinders. In the compilation below, MCA earns his reputation as the quiet one, as he is mostly content to fade into the background and let Mike D and Ad-Rock do the driving — except when he gets interviewed by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, which he treats as a study in the surreal.
MTV Video Music Awards
In 1998, hot off the release of the smash Hello Nasty, the Beastie Boys received MTV’s Video Vanguard Award, a defunct prize for game-changing careers. The award was presented by Chuck D, who would later induct the group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Recognizing that he had an audience, Yauch spoke his mind about violence in the Middle East and racism against Muslims perpetuated by Americans. That was Yauch: always looking to push his ideas forward but never doing it with cable news rancor.
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two at MSG
Yauch’s illness prevented the group from properly touring for their excellent 2011 album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, but they still got the chance to tear down Madison Square Garden. Though the band does not appear in this video, somebody dressed as Sasquatch does show up to press play so the album could be played in its entirety at center court in the empty arena.