Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto passes away at 71 years old

Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has passed away at the age of 71.

Sakamoto was a part of the trailblazing electronic pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra. With his bandmates, Sakamoto established the foundation for modern electronic pop, both in its sound and in its technical composition. His track “Thousand Knives” was one of the first to use the Roland TR-808 drum machine, which would later become a staple of all electronically generated music.

In addition to his work with YMO, Sakamoto found incredible international success as a solo artist and a composer, winning an Oscar for his score of Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Last Emperor, a BAFTA for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and various nominations for films like Little Buddha and The Revenant. Sakamoto’s soundtrack for Wings Of Honnêamise is a personal favorite of mine.

Those who have followed Sakamoto in recent years may have been aware of his battle with cancer; his first diagnosis with throat cancer was in 2014, for which he subsequently received treatment. Unfortunately, in 2021 Sakamoto announced that cancer had resurfaced, and though he was optimistic in battling the disease, his concerts, work and appearances in public began to slow down. A series of online concerts were produced and broadcast late last year, no doubt anticipating the end.

Sakamoto is survived by his wife and manager, Norika Sora, their two children, as well as his two children from previous marriages. His YMO bandmate Yukihiro Takahashi passed away earlier this year, and Haruomi Hosono is the last surviving member of the main trio.

A documentary film, Coda, was produced in 2018 about Sakamoto’s life, works, activism, and battle with cancer.


Here is a selection of my personal favorites from Ryuichi Sakamoto. This is merely a matter of preference and personal impact; his entire catalogue is worth digging into, as BTS‘s Suga would equally attest to.

“A Flower Is Not A Flower”

“Forbidden Colours” (With David Sylvian)

“Thousand Knives”

“Fade” (Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honnêamise OST)

“Haru” (With Fennesz)

Sega Dreamcast Startup Sound

“Rain” – The Last Emperor OST

“Koneko Monogatari” – The Adventures of Milo And Otis

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