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Beastie Boys show how the third, late bandmate elevated them from 'fart jokes' at SXSW 2019

Adam 'MCA' Yauch died in 2012 after being diagnosed with cancer. The remaining two Beastie Boys spoke at length about Yauch's contributions to the band and society at South by Southwest.

AUSTIN, Texas — Although one Beastie Boy was physically missing as Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz spoke at South by Southwest, the late Adam Yauch was certainly on their minds.

Diamond and Horovitz were interviewed by Amazon Music’s head of editorial Nathan Brackett at South by Southwest Conference & Festivals March 15. When the two weren't interrupting each other with inside jokes that are only "funny to us," they spent most of their time at the SXSW keynote reminiscing about Yauch.

Formed in 1981, the Beastie Boys served as part of New York’s hardcore punk underground scene. Diamond, Horovitz and the late Adam “MCA” Yauch created seven multi-platinum albums from 1986 to 2011, including License to Ill, Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty, To the 5 Boroughs and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

License to Ill, released in 1986, was their first mainstream success.

While they were first known as a punk band, they became known as a hip-hop group.

Yauch died at the age of 47 in 2012 after being diagnosed with cancer in 2009. 

Several years after Yauch’s death, the remaining of the trio wrote a book titled, “Beastie Boys Book.” Brackett noted that "fans saw that you were all friends. It felt like a community, and that came across in the book."

Diamond said in their beginnings, "it was a big pack of kids -- weird kids who found each other," and ran around New York City to explore the different genres of music playing within blocks of each other.

Credit: Shawna Reding, KVUE
Michael “Mike D” Diamond spoke with his fellow bandmate at South by Southwest March 15.

Part of the purpose of writing the book was to show the world who Yauch was, Horovitz said at the SXSW talk.

While recording their album, "License to Ill," Horovitz said Yauch wondered what the tracks would sound like if the beats were played backward. Yauch then recorded a beat, bounced it to another tape, flipped it around and bounced it back to the multi-track tape. 

It was an idea Yauch had heard about a while back. And it worked.

Credit: Shawna Reding, KVUE
Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz spoke in Austin at South by Southwest on March 15.

"Yauch instinctively knew all these details about life," Horovitz said.

And, Horovitz added that at that time, "there’s no Google, there’s no nothing."

"He knew all these random things about life," Horovitz said.


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Yauch practiced Buddhism since 1994.

"He was always interested in the world beyond what we were," Diamond said. And beyond that, Diamond said Yauch "really had an interest in the people who lived in the world. He would come back and bring that all back to our music."

One Beastie Boys song that exemplifies that is “Bodhisattva Vow,” in which Yauch pledges himself to Buddhism.

The third and late Beastie Boy helped elevate the group.

Horovitz said that when the band wrote lyrics together, they would go around a circle and throw sentences out, which he and Diamond said included a lot of "fart jokes" and the like.

But, while brainstorming for their song, "Sure Shot," Yauch went somewhere else:

"I want to say a little something that's long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end."

Those were lines he would become remembered for. Brackett asked Horovitz and Diamond if they had any idea how meaningful that would be.

"No," Horovitz simply said to laughter from the crowd.

It was something that dawned on them as they traveled and spoke to people who were touched by Yauch's ode to women.

The group stopped playing after Yauch's death. 

As a part of an announcement made at the SXSW keynote, Horovitz and Diamond said they have shows, directed by Spike Jonze, coming up in Philadelphia and New York City in April.


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