Original Beastie Boy John Berry Dead at 52

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John Berry (second from right) in the back cover photo of the debut Beastie Boys LP, ‘Polly Wog Stew.’

John Berry, who played guitar in the first iteration of The Beastie Boys and came up with the group’s name, died yesterday (5/19) at age 52. He passed away at a hospice in Danvers, MA after suffering from an ever-worsening case of frontal lobe dementia.

Berry started the group as a punk rock band with Mike Diamond, a friend from New York’s Walden School, in July 1981. Its other members were Adam Yauch and Kate Schellenbach. The foursome would rehearse and played some of their first shows at Berry’s loft at 100th St. and Broadway in Manhattan. The foursome released an eight-song EP, Polly Wog Stew, in November 1982 on the Rat Cage label, appeared on the ROIR Records compilation New York Thrash, and opened shows for the Bad Brains, the Dead Kennedys, the Misfits and Reagan Youth.

Berry left the band after nine months, and went on to play with the groups Bourbon Deluxe, Highway Stars, Big Fat Love and Even Worse. Schellenbach also departed soon after and then started the band Luscious Jackson.

Adam Horovitz (aka Ad Rock) joined Diamond and Yauch and the threesome released a hip-hop 12-inch (“Cooky Puss,” inspired by a Carvel ice cream cake frequently advertised on late-night New York City TV) before recording the group’s debut album, Licensed To Ill. It went on to sell 50 million albums worldwide and yielded the #7 hit single “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!).” Adam Yauch died from cancer in 2012.

When The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, Horovitz gave a shout out “to John Berry [and] to John Berry’s loft on 100th Street and Broadway, where John’s dad would come busting in during our first practices screaming, ‘Would you turn that fucking shit off already?’”

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