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02 April 2023

Ryuichi Sakamoto, Founding Member Of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Dies Aged 71

Ryuichi Sakamoto
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Ryuichi Sakamoto died on Tuesday 28 March, the musician’s management has announced. The pioneering Japanese musician and composer, who first came to prominence as a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978, had shared in a statement in January 2021 that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer, several years after he first returned to music after treatment for throat cancer. Sakamoto was 71 years old.

“While undergoing treatment for cancer discovered in June 2020, Sakamoto continued to create works in his home studio whenever his health would allow,” Sakamoto’s management, Commmons, wrote in its statement. “He lived with music until the very end. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to his fans and all those who have supported his activities, as well as the medical professionals in Japan and the U.S. who did everything in their power to cure him. In accordance with Sakamoto’s strong wishes, the funeral service was held among his close family members.”

As a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra alongside Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, Sakamoto created pioneering electronic pop in the late 70s and early 80s, alongside solo releases. He acted alongside David Bowie in the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and composed its celebrated theme, the first in a series of film scores including Oscar-winning work in 1987 with David Byrne and Cong Su for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. In 2015, he picked up a Golden Globe nomination for his work on The Revenant.

Sakamoto shared that his cancer had returned in early 2021. “From now on, I will be living alongside cancer,” he wrote in a statement. “But, I am hoping to make music for a little while longer.” In November, he announced what now marks his final album, 12. Sakamoto recorded the album in 2021 and 2022, and the track titles reflect the dates that the compositions were written.

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