John Berry, an original member and former guitarist for the platinum-selling hip-hop rock group the Beastie Boys, died from complications of frontal lobe dementia Thursday morning at the age of 52, in Danvers, Mass. His father, John Berry III, confirmed his death to Rolling Stone that afternoon, explaining that his son’s dementia had worsened considerably in recent months.
Berry was one of the four original members and the first guitarist of the hardcore punk band, initially formed in 1981, called the Young Aborigines, alongside Mike Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch and Kate Schellenbach. Berry is credited with coming up with the “Beastie Boys” moniker, which would remain the group’s official name throughout their careers. Berry was featured on the Beastie Boys’ debut EP, Polly Wog Stew, before departing the group in 1982. He was replaced by Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, who would remain in the group until its disbandment in 2014.
After Yauch’s death in 2012, Berry becomes the second member of the group to pass away. Though he quit the band only a year after its formation, Berry was mentioned in Horovitz’s speech (which you can watch here.) at the 2012 induction of the Beastie Boys’ into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which he was recognized as a founding member of the legendary rap group. Horovitz recalled “John Berry’s loft on 100th St. and Broadway where John’s dad would come in during our first practices screaming ‘will you turn that fuckin’ shit off already?’” The first Beasties Boys show took place in that very same loft.
Listen to the 1982 EP Polly Wog Stew in its entirety below.