John Berry, founding Beastie Boys member, dead at 52

Founding Beastie Boys member John Berry, who coined the name of the influential New York band, has died at the age of 52.

Original guitarist coined the influential group's name

The original lineup of the Beastie Boys included, from left, drummer Kate Schellenbach, bassist Adam Yauch, guitarist John Berry and vocalist Mike Diamond. Guitarist Berry has died at the age of 52. (The Beastie Boys)

Founding Beastie Boys member John Berry has died at the age of 52.

His stepmother, Louise Berry, told The Associated Press that Berry died Thursday morning at a hospice in Danvers, Mass.

She said Berry suffered from frontal lobe dementia and had been in declining health for several years.

"We are heartbroken hearing the news of the passing of John Berry," said musician Kate Schellenbach, who played drums with an early, punk incarnation of the group and remained a contemporary.

She posted the note via the Facebook page of her band Luscious Jackson.

"He was a good friend and rabble rouser and if it wasn't for him, there'd be no Beasties, no Luscious Jackson, no Grand Royal and god knows what else."

His father, John Berry III, said Berry helped found the Beastie Boys in the early 1980s after meeting future bandmate Mike (Mike D) Diamond at the Walden School in New York.

Beastie Boys members Adam Horovitz, left, and Mike Diamond recalled early practices at John Berry's Manhattan loft when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2012. (Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

Berry III said the band used his Manhattan loft for their first practices and shows — which Adam (Ad-Rock) Horovitz recalled as he read a speech from fellow member Adam (MCA) Yauch when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Berry left the group after playing guitar on its first EP, 1982's Polly Wog Stew.

As the band became a more professional outfit, Berry "wasn't up for that rigour," according to his father.

"He was not amenable to authority," he said.

Berry "remained friendly" with Yauch and Diamond after leaving the group and continued to pursue his interests in both music and art, his father said.

"He had a very good artist's way of looking at the world," he added.

Co-founding member Yauch died at 47 after a battle with cancer four years ago this month.

Berry is survived by an adult son. His family plans a celebration of his life in the fall.

The Beastie Boys, seen in 2006, rose to fame as a hip hop trio comprising (from left) Mike (Mike D) Diamond, Adam (Ad-Rock) Horovitz and Adam (MCA) Yauch. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)


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