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Adam Yauch: A Mensch in the World to Come

In his will, late Beastie Boy “MCA” prohibits use of his songs in commercials

Adam Chandler
August 10, 2012

Posthumous stories about celebrities are rarely more than just vapid bits of dish or journalistic acts of bathos, but at the risk of binary sin, I stumbled across a story about Adam Yauch—better known as MCA from the the Beastie Boys—that I thought worthy of mention.

According to DNAInfo, Yauch’s will bans the use of his music and images in advertisements, which frequently happens in the case of deceased artists and musicians.

The pioneering rapper, whose real name is Adam Yauch, instructed in his will that his image, music and any art he created could not be used for advertising, saving himself from the fate of other deceased musicians whose faces and songs have become corporate shills.

Yauch’s will, filed Tuesday in Manhattan Surrogate Court, says the Brooklyn native’s entire fortune of $6.4 million should be placed in a trust for his wife, Dechen Yauch, and their 13-year-old daughter. It also says Dechen has the right to sell and manage his artistic property.

One of Yauch’s better-known (but perhaps less appreciated) qualities was his fealty to his principles. As David Samuels wrote for Tablet back in May in one of the only honest tributes in an ocean of false self-reference:

What I want said here is that Adam Yauch was a rare mensch in a world populated by natural-born assholes and egomaniacs and by people who are high or scared or both. I don’t mean to suggest that he wasn’t one of Brooklyn’s finest white rappers and a city kid to the core. But rap music will survive his death. What has been lost is a model of how to live as a humble yet active and entirely responsible citizen of the world and also, at the same time, as a rock star, which is something that few human beings have the emotional capacity—including the knowledge of their own uniqueness and also the tolerance for their own limitations, and the limitations of others—to manage.

Considering the gobs of cash that companies can throw around to co-opt an artist’s sound or work to help brand their stuff, this story in a lot of ways confirms how consistent and intact Yauch’s soul is.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.