The lyrics to the songs of the Beastie Boys forever stick in your head.
“Aw, mom, you’re just jealous it’s the Beastie Boys!”
Many of us born in the late ’60s and ’70s were saddened to hear of the death of yet another Beastie Boy, John Berry, 52, a founding member of the band. The Beastie Boys co-founder has died in a Massachusetts hospice after a long battle with frontotemporal dementia, which has no cure. Another founding member of the Beastie Boys, Adam Yauch, died in 2012 of cancer at age 47. Unlike many other rock stars who died young, neither Berry nor Yauch died of drugs or misadventure, but instead perished of painful illnesses that robbed them of a full life.
Unlike recent celebrity deaths and near-deaths like that of Lamar Odom, who according to the Inquisitr overdosed in a Nevada brothel while drinking and doing heavy drugs, ending up in a coma for months, both Berry and Yauch were struck down by terminal illnesses.
Rolling Stone broke the news of Berry’s passing yesterday morning in Danvers, Massachusetts, and credited him with not only being a founding member of the Beastie Boys, but also being critical to the success of the group. Berry was also a factor in the success of many current bands, and continued to work with other musicians in addition to the Beastie Boys. Berry’s father, John Berry III, confirmed the former Beastie Boy’s passing, saying that he suffered frontal lobe dementia, which had worsened in recent months.
Berry is credited with coming up with the group name, Beastie Boys, back in 1981 when he was a student in New York at the Walden School with Mike Diamond. Berry and Diamond joined Adam Yauch and Kate Schellenbach to form the original Beastie Boys in July of 1981. The first Beastie Boys show was in Berry’s Upper West Side loft. At the time, the Beastie Boys were considered a fledgling hardcore punk band.
Berry, who played guitar for the Beastie Boys, played on the band’s first seven-inch EP Polly Wog Stew recorded in 1982. Berry left the Beastie Boys shortly after, followed by Schellenbach, and the two were replaced by Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock). Berry went on to play a role in the success of several other bands including Lucious Jackson, Even Worse, Big Fat Love, Highway Stars, and Bourbon Deluxe.
Years later, when the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the other band members, including Yauch, gave credit to Berry for his contributions to the success in the early years of the Beastie Boys. Adam Horovitz read the speech written by Adam Yauch, who had been friends with Berry since the early ’80s.
The Los Angeles Times quoted John Berry’s stepmother, Louise Berry, as saying that the former Beastie Boys member had been fighting frontotemporal dementia with little success. Berry had been in and out of several medical facilities including the Mayo Clinic, but he continued to decline as frontotemporal dementia is a progressive disease with no cure.
Berry’s father, John Berry III, claims that the former Beastie Boys band member developed an interest in music in his teens when he moved in with his father in New York and met other like-minded teens at the Walden School, and formed the Beastie Boys.
John Berry III said this his New York loft was the perfect practice spot for the Beastie Boys when they got started. But as the Beastie Boys became more than a high school band, Berry wasn’t up to the rigor that was required at that time to be a professional musician. John Berry III explained that though Berry loved music, he couldn’t work within the structure that was required to be a full-time member of the Beastie Boys and a professional musician while still in his teens.
“He was not amenable to authority.”
Berry III explained that there was no rift between Berry and the band as the Beastie Boys went forward, and says that Berry “remained friendly” with Diamond and Yauch.
“He (Berry) had a very good artist’s way of looking at the world.”
Adam Yauch, known as MCA, died four years ago this month, leaving Diamond and Horovitz as the only surviving members of the Beastie Boys. John Berry is survived by his father and an adult son, who are planning a celebration of Berry’s life in the fall.
Are you a fan of the Beastie Boys?
[Photo by Dennis Brekke | Creative Commons | Cropped and Resized | CC by 4.0]