When Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of The Beastie Boys, died of cancer in May 2012, his will included a provision stating that “his image, music and any art he created could not be used for advertising.” That stipulation, largely consistent with the band’s longtime philosophy, has since become the basis of a series of legal battles for the band’s remaining two members, Mike D. and Ad-Rock (Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz), first with toy company GoldieBlox over the use of the song “Girls” in a clever commercial, and now with Monster Energy Drink.
The New York Daily News reports that Diamond and Horovitz both testified in Manhattan federal court last week in a $1 million suit against the energy drink company for using the song “Sabotage” in an ad without the band’s permission. (Monster is trying to negotiate a lower fee.)
Diamond said that had Monster asked, the answer would have been “absolutely no.”
“We do not let our music get used in commercials for commercial products,” Diamond said.
It’s not surprising that the band would take MCA’s final request so seriously. As David Samuels wrote of why the Beastie Boys—along with Elvis Costello, U2, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers—performed at a small Tibetan Freedom Concert held on Randall’s Island in 1997: “They were there because Adam Yauch felt they should be there—which meant it was the right thing to do.”
Still, while the group’s ethical fabric remains impressively intact, the loss of MCA is nothing short of catastrophic for the lifelong friends from Brooklyn. The Beastie Boys are simply not The Beastie Boys without MCA, which is perhaps the saddest part of witnessing Mike D. and Ad-Rock’s newly litigious incarnation.
While Diamond reportedly told the judge they turned down a lucrative deal for “Sabotage” to appear in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2014 action film of the same name, he also told the Daily News that the band isn’t making any new music or playing concerts (their last album was released in 2011, after being postponed due to Yauch’s illness; their last tour was in 2008).
“We have not been able to tour since MCA, Adam Yauch, died,” Diamond said.
“We can’t make new music.”
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.