John Berry, a founding member of innovative rap/rock band The Beastie Boys, has passed away at the age of 52 in Danvers, Massachusetts. Berry had been in hospice care there, and was suffering from frontal lobe dementia — a disease his father John Berry III said had gotten worse in recent months, according to Rolling Stone.
The original guitar player in the now-legendary New York group, Berry was perhaps best known as the man who came up with the Beastie Boys’ iconic name, a moniker he developed for the band when they were teenagers.
Formed in July 1981, The Beastie Boys were originally a four-piece punk band featuring Berry, Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, and Kate Schellenbach. Berry eventually left the group in 1983, shortly after he appeared on their debut 7” LP, called Polly Wog Stew.
The guitar player is the second founding member of the band to pass away; Yauch died of cancer in 2012, shortly after the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Despite the fact that many early members of bands that later become famous get forgotten, the continuing members of The Beastie Boys have always credited Berry as being an important historic member of the band. In fact, some of their first rehearsals took place at his family’s apartment in New York — a fact stated publicly during a speech penned by Yauch for the group’s Rock Hall of Fame induction.
“To John Berry [and] to John Berry’s loft on 100th Street and Broadway,” Yauch wrote, “Where John’s dad would come busting in during our first practices screaming, ‘Would you turn that fucking shit off already!?’”
After leaving the band in the early 80s, Berry went on to continue playing music with various other bands, none of which ever reached the massive success of the one he named in his youth.