(RNN) - Beastie Boys rapper and co-founder Adam Yauch died Friday after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 47.
Yauch was one-third of the iconic rap group that debuted in 1979, injecting a punk rock sound into hip-hop, which had been dominated by black performers. The group is one of the longest running musical acts, still performing 25 years after the three friends from Manhattan took the mainstream stage.
As is usual in this time of instant information, the news struck social media like a lightning bolt, with fans and other music icons mourning his loss.
"Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly," said Def Jam records co-founder Russell Simmons on his blog linked to a tweet. "I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us."
Fellow 1980s icons Duran Duran released a short statement via Twitter:
"Rest in Peace Adam Yauch. Our condolences to your friends and family."
Yauch announced in 2009 that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland. He had undergone surgery and radiation therapy for cancerous parotid gland and lymph node.
When the group was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14 of this year, the band could not perform because Yauch was not well enough to join them on stage.
Horowitz read a letter from Yauch to his fans at the ceremony:
"I'd like to dedicate this to my brothers Adam and Mike," he said. "They walked the globe with me. It's also for anyone who has ever been touched by our band. This induction is as much ours as it is yours."
The band had planned to release Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1 in 2009 around the time of Yauch's announcement that he had cancer, but had to postpone it and a tour.
"It's a pain in the neck (sorry had to say it) because I was really looking forward to playing these shows, but the doctors have made it clear that this is not the kind of thing that can be put aside to deal with later," Yauch said in a statement at the time.
Eventually, the group released the album in 2011 , but changed the name to Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2, according to Rolling Stone.
The album followed a long list of notable works, from their first mainstream album, Licensed to Ill, in 1986. It was the first hip hop LP to make the top of the Billboard 200 chart.
The album fed off the wild popularity of Fight for Your Right, a signature song that helped launch the Beastie Boys into stardom.
Later in their career, Beastie Boys became well known for their work in the free Tibet movement. Yauch allegedly became a vegan at the recommendation of his Tibetan doctors.
Though the Beastie Boys had not performed live since 2009, the group remained relevant to this day.
"Someone legit cool died today. No wasp jokes, it's just sad. The Beastie Boys rule, now and forever," read a tweet from a high school-age fan, @Servbot42.
The group, which began as a punk rock band that made the transition to rap, made its mark as one of the most successful, most iconic, most recognizable and most beloved acts in entertainment history.
Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechan Wangdu, and daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch, who is 14.
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