Remembering Adam Yauch: The Non-Musical Accomplishments Of MCA

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Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch remembered for non-musical accomplishments

In the last few years of his too-short life, you were as likely to find Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA of the Beastie Boys, on the red carpet of a film festival as in the studio or onstage. As happens with many artists who find success at an early age, Yauch found new outlets for his talents, and they amounted to much more than mere hobbies. Sure, we’re blasting Beastie tunes nonstop in the hours after we learned of his death at age 47 today, but we’re also looking back at his non-musical accomplishments too.

Nathaniel Hornblower, The Director

As his alter ego Hornblower, a Swiss goat herder, Yauch directed a number of Beastie Boys videos, and quite memorably stormed the stage in costume at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards to protest Spike Jones’ not getting the Moonman for “Sabotage.” He was also rather outspoken in other outlets, such as the letter to the New York Times posted on his bio on Oscilloscope.net.



But mere music videos weren’t enough for Hornblower. He went on to direct the revolutionary concert video Awesome I F—in’ Shot That, which was made by handing out 50 Hi-8 video cameras to fans at a sold-out Madison Square Garden show in 2004. Nathaniel also helmed last year’s amazing nostalgia-fest, the half-hour short, Fight for Your Right Revisited.

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Yauch wasn’t just a filmmaker with a funny hat, though. In 2002 he founded Oscilloscope Laboratories as a record label, and then in 2008 developed Oscilloscope Pictures, a production company that has put out some 50 feature films, including Oscar nominated pics like Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Messenger. That’s also how he released his own non-Beasties documentary, Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot, in 2008. The movie follows eight high school basketball stars who compete in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem.

The Tibetan Freedom Fighter

In 1995, Yauch explained to Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun how he got involve in the religion and the cause of the Tibetan people: “I was reading a lot about Native American and other religions and checking out different things. Then I was in Kathmandu about two years ago, and I met some people who were Tibetan Studies majors living there. I was just hanging out with them; went to a couple of monasteries and Tibetan people’s houses and started getting into Tibetan culture a little bit. And I went and saw the Dalai Lama speak when he was in America for the Arizona teachings.”

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Yauch took his interest a big step further, founding the Tibetan Freedom Concerts in 1996. The shows took place in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Amsterdam, Sydney and East Troy, Wisconsin, from ’96 to 2001, featured everyone from the Smashing Pumpkins and U2 to A Tribe Called Quest and Herbie Hancock. More notably, they made the Tibetans’ struggle with China a cause everyone was familiar with in the ’90s.

“We’re trying to just raise awareness/with the concerts, what we’re really trying to do is create more of a forum for the Tibetans themselves to be able to speak,” Yauch told PBS.org. “I know that like if I turn on the TV and I just see some movie star or rock star talking about some cause a lot of times I get really turned off to it so I guess the idea is — creating some kind of forum where the — the Tibetans themselves can speak and Tibetan culture can be there itself.

The Family Man

All that work for Tibet had an inadvertent benefit for Yauch: He met his wife, Dechen Wangdu, at a Dalai Lama speech in 1995. They married in 1998 and had daughter Tenzin Losel Yauch in September of that year. Our hearts go out to Dechen and Tenzin on this sad day.