Mike D has paid tribute to original Beastie Boys member John Berry, who died Thursday at the age of 52. “John was like my first high school older brother. He was a grade older than me and was my first teacher of all things punk,” the rapper said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
“When I would be unsure about sneaking out of the house to go to a Bad Brains or Gang Of Four show, he would just give me this look and say ‘c’mon’ and I was in,” Mike D continued. “He showed me what a lack of fear and some reckless abandon could look like. I will forever owe him that debt of punk inspiration.”
Berry, who coined the band name “Beastie Boys,” attended New York’s Walden School with Mike “Mike D” Diamond. Guitarist Berry, singer Mike D, bassist Adam “MCA” Yauch and drummer Kate Schellenbach formed the first incarnation of the Beasties in 1981, with the group hosting their early shows at Berry’s loft on West 100th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side.
Berry was a member of the band for their hardcore punk-minded 7″ debut release Polly Wog Stew in 1982, but left the group the following year. Soon after, Mike D and MCA recruited Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, a guitarist for the Young and the Useless. “He may have quickly become disinterested when the band became more involved in hip-hop – which is why he soon left, but he always followed his own intuitive lead,” Mike D said of Berry.
Mike D and Ad-Rock also thanked Berry, who suffered from frontal lobe dementia, for his contributions while reading a letter penned by MCA during their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech. Schellenbach would later play drums for Luscious Jackson, and that band penned a tribute to Berry on social media.
“We are heartbroken hearing the news of the passing of John Berry, the original guitarist and founder of the Beastie Boys. 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,” the band wrote. “John brought us all together in his crazy wooden house on the UWS…Rest In Piece friend.” Schellenbach also remembered Berry on social media.