Beastie Boys: 90s Icons

Beastie Boys were an American hip hop and rap rock group from New York City formed in 1978. During the height of their popularity, the group was composed of Michael “Mike D” Diamond (vocals, drums), Adam “MCA” Yauch (vocals, bass) and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (vocals, guitar).

Starting as a punk band, Beastie Boys were formed out of members of the experimental hardcore punk band the Young Aborigines in 1978, with Diamond as vocalist, Jeremy Shatan on bass guitar, guitarist John Berry and Kate Schellenbach on drums. Shatan left in 1981, Yauch replaced him on bass and the band changed their name to Beastie Boys. Berry left shortly thereafter and was replaced by Horovitz.

They quickly changed gears in 1983, after achieving success with the experimental hip hop song Cooky Puss. They toured with Madonna in 1985, and a year later, released their debut album, Licensed to Ill, the first rap record to top the Billboard 200 chart, and spawned the huge mega hit, You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party. The album was a monster seller, spending 73 weeks on the Billboard 200 and selling over nine million copies in the U.S. alone.

Their subsequent albums, Paul’s Boutique (1989), Check Your Head (1992), and Ill Communication (1994) found mainstream success, followed by Hello Nasty (1998), To the 5 Boroughs (2004), The Mix-Up (2007), and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011) all fared well, and were well received critically, but never reached the magnitude of that first album. Even so, they sold a very respectable 11+ million on all those albums combined.

The band toured relentlessly in support of all their albums, but everything came to a screeching halt on July 20, 2009, when Adam “MCA” Yauch announced that he had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his left salivary gland. Subsequent tour dates were cancelled, and further recording shelved.

The band was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in December 2011 but were unable to perform as Yauch was in the hospital, and their material was performed by a host of other artists.

Sadly, on May 4, 2012, Yauch died from cancer at the age of 47. After much speculation, in June 2014, Mike D confirmed that he and Ad-Rock would not make music under the Beastie Boys name again.

More recently, Founding Beastie Boys guitarist John Berry died on May 19, 2016, aged 52, as a result of frontotemporal dementia, following several years of ill health. He was credited with naming the band Beastie Boys, and played guitar on the first EP.

In an interesting twist, Yauch’s will forbid the use of Beastie Boys music in advertisements. In June 2014, Beastie Boys won a lawsuit against Monster Energy for using their music in a commercial without permission.

Diamond and Horovitz penned a Beastie Boys memoir in 2018 and have also released a Spike Lee directed documentary about the band in 2020. The career-spanning book and documentary were complemented by the compilation album Beastie Boys Music, due to be released in October 2020.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]