Japanese composer and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto dies at 71

Monday 03 April 2023

Japanese composer and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto, a pioneer in electronic music and winner of an Oscar, Grammy and BAFTA awards, has died at 71. He died of cancer on March 28.

“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.”

Sakamoto was known for his work as a solo artist and as a member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) group.

His 1987 film score for The Last Emperor won him an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe. He also acted in the movie, which detailed the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China. He also starred in the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, with David Bowie.

In 1978, Sakamoto joined with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi to form Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). The avant-garde keyboardists were an influence on techno-pop and later, hip-hop.

Sakamoto began studying composition at age 10, inspired by the Beatles and Debussy.

“Asian music heavily influenced Debussy, and Debussy heavily influenced me. So the music goes around the world and comes full circle,” he said in 2010.

In 1992, Sakamoto was the composer for the opening ceremony music for the Barcelona Olympics.

His resume includes scores for Oliver Stone’s ABC miniseries Wild Palms (1993) and Brian de Palma’s Snake Eyes (1998). He also had his own hit on the Japanese pop charts in 1999 with “Energy Flow,” which had been used in a TV commercial touting an energy drink. It became the first instrumental song to reach No. 1 in Japan.

In accordance with Sakamoto’s wishes, a funeral service was held with only his close family members, his management team said.

Survivors include daughter Miu Sakamoto, a successful pop singer in Japan.