As a member of Beastie Boys, Yauch (who recorded under the name MCA) helped pioneer rap-rock with the band's groundbreaking 1986 debut, Licensed to Ill. On classic tracks like "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," the New York trio rudely and brilliantly combined heavy metal riffs and rap lyrics, helping to introduce hip-hop to white audiences in the process. Consequently, the band paved the way for rap-rock bands in the '90s, which ran the gamut from the political activism of Rage Against the Machine to the suburban frat-rock of Limp Bizkit. Beastie Boys weren't the only pioneers of the genre -- Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C.'s "Walk This Way" deserves some credit as well -- but they definitely got the ball rolling.
But Beastie Boys weren't just innovators. Almost a decade after Licensed to Ill, the band (which started out as a punk group) would occasionally pick up their instruments to deliver some funk or thrash tunes. This reached its apex with their fantastic "Sabotage," one of the highlights of mid-'90s alternative rock. Throughout their career, Beastie Boys refused to be pigeonholed as any one type of musical outfit. No wonder they were beloved by both the hip-hop and Lollapalooza crowds.
Yauch was 47. While his death to cancer is terribly sad, it also perhaps means the end of his influential band as well. If that's the case, they leave behind an enduring legacy that helped birth a lot of rock careers.
Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images.