Jerry Berry died — or did he? Country music singer John Berry put a message out to his fans that he is still alive and singing songs. A report about Beastie Boy John Berry’s death last Thursday erroneously featured some videos of country music singer John Berry, according to Taste of Country. He put out a press release.
“I am saddened to hear of the news of the passing of Mr. Berry of the Beastie Boys but I felt the need to let folks know I am OK. There was some apparent confusion with the journalist who put together the John Berry news video over at AOL. I just want to clarify that I am alive and well. I’d like to offer my condolences to Mr. Berry’s family.”
Sadly, one of the original Beastie Boys, John Berry, died Thursday at the age of 52. The death was confirmed by his father, John Berry III. Berry performed with the teen punk band in 1981 and 1982. As a teenager, he founded the group as well as giving the group their Beastie Boys name. Their first performances were in Berry’s loft in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where small crowds would gather to hear them.
John Berry suffered from frontal lobe dementia, according to Rolling Stone. His health had been failing for several years. His father, John Berry III, said it had become worse in the last few months. Berry died at a hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts.
The band formed in July 1981. Berry knew, Mike “Mike D” Diamond, from Walden School in New York. They had been in the band the Young Aborigines with Kate Schellenbach. When a member of that band left, the band dissolved. Berry formed the Beastie Boys with Diamond and Schellenbach. They then recruited Adam Yauch to join them.
The band recorded it’s first seven-inch EP in November 1982, Polly Wog Stew. John Berry left the group shortly afterward, as did Kate Schellenbach in 1983. Schellenbach moved on to hip-hop and had several singles hits. Berry later played in bands Even Worse, Big Fat Love, and Highway Stars, however, they were not as successful as the Beastie Boys.
The Beastie Boys blended rock, punk, rap and hip-hop all into one package, making them a huge success among teenagers, according to CNN. Their success in hip-hop was notable at a time when the music form was dominated by African-American performers.
“The group’s music crossed genres and color lines, and helped bring rap to a wider audience,” said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy.
Adam Horovitz, know as “Ad-Rock” replaced Berry in the band. In 2012, the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Hall of Fame, but they did not forget their founder, John Berry. Original band member Adam Yauch, known to his fans as “MCA”, died that year at the age of 47 after battling cancer of his parotid gland and lymph nodes for three years. Yauch had written a message for Berry prior to his death. It was read at the Hall of Fame induction by fellow band member Adam Horovitz.
“To John Berry, to John Berry’s loft on 100 Street on Broadway, where John’s dad would come busting in on our first practices screaming, ‘Will you turn that f—— s— off already.”
Frontal lobe dementia, also known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD), is the type of dementia that John Berry suffered. It causes changes in personality and difficulties with speech as it shrinks the brain tissue in the frontal region of the brain. It can also cause difficulties with motor function. It is sometimes referred to as Pick’s disease after the doctor who first described the symptoms. Unlike Alzheimer’s, frontal lobe dementia usually appears much earlier in life. Because there is no specific test for FTD, diagnosis is often delayed in its early stages. Personality changes that occur include impulsiveness, apathy, and socially inappropriate behavior. There is no cure for frontal lobe dementia, and therapy is focused on palliative care and eventually leads to the patient being fully dependent for care. Patients usually survive six to eight years after diagnosis.
“It’s nice to see the outpouring of love and support for our son,” Berry III said. “He was a tremendous son, a tremendous musician, and quite a wonderful artist.”
The Beastie Boys made its mark in 1986 with their album Licensed to Ill. The album included hits such as “(You Gotta) Fight for the Right (to Party”), “Brass Monkey,” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”
Country music singer John Berry has been twice nominated for a Grammy and has many hits, including “Your Love Amazes Me,” “What’s In It For Me,” and “You and Only You.”
[Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images]