Ryuichi Sakamoto Dead At 71

Japanese composer and electronic music pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto (January 17, 1952 – March 28, 2023) has died at the age of 71.

Sakamoto first came to fame in 1978 as a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), along with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi. YMO could be considered a Japanese counterpart to Kraftwerk, making drum machines, synthesizers and sequencers an important part of their style.

They quickly became one of the most popular groups in Japan, and by 1979, they had an international hit with Firecracker.

YMO was one of the most influential early synth pop groups, and their music influenced many musicians that followed, in genres ranging from pop to techno to hip hop.

Here’s Technopolis, from their second album, Solid State Survivor:

Here’s YMO in 1980, in a live performance on Soul Train.

Sakamoto also had an active career outside of YMO. His work included solo albums; collaborations with the likes of David Sylvian, David Byrne, Thomas Dolby and even Brian Wilson.

In 1983, he starred alongside David Bowie in the war film Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. In addition to acting in the film, Sakamoto wrote the score.

Here’s Sakamoto performing Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, the theme from the film:

Sakamoto’s score led to more soundtrack work, including The Last Emperor, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Score and Grammy Award.

Sakamoto was the subject of a 2018 documentary by Stephen Schible, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda:

15 thoughts on “Ryuichi Sakamoto Dead At 71

  1. Here is a name which has lived with me since my teens many years ago. Sakamoto was one of those musicians I admired greatly. He forged his own path and never compromised himself artistically. He lived for music and music is now has a little vacuum with his passing. R.I.P Sakamoto.

  2. YMO was a great influence on my music and always had such amazing mixes of sounds and rhythms. Even more recently as sketch show audio sponge they have done cool and interesting stuff. Sakamoto will be dearly missed, and I hope Takahashi and Hosono continue to do works and create great sounds and songs. rest in peace music maker!!

  3. I am so sad to hear of his passing, Ryuichi Sakamoto was one of the few people I would dare to call a Hero, his style of playing has influenced my own works beyond all others. RIP

  4. Kinda timely that Yukihiro Takahashi (I loved his band “Pupa”) just past away weeks ago… and Haruomi Hosono is the oldest of the three members of YMO and he’s the only one left. This is/was such a great band of unique talents each. Huge loss but what a legacy.

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