Ryuichi Sakamoto Passes at 71

It was announced today that Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away on March 28 at the age of 71.

He overcame oropharyngeal cancer that developed in 2014, but rectal cancer was discovered in 2020. Throughout his illness, Sakamoto continued to work out of his home studio.

In January of this year, he released what would be his final work while alive, the album “12.” He conceptualized the album as a diary of his cancer battle. Last December, he played his final concert “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Playing the Piano 2022.” At the time, he suggested that this could be his final concert, a prediction that came true.

Sakamoto debuted as a solo artist in 1978 with the album ” Thousand Knives.” At the same time, he joined Haruomi Hosono and the recently departed Yukihiro Takahashi to form Yellow Magic Orchestra, a group that pioneered electronic music and influenced many artists around the world.

Sakamoto was also well known for his music for film, creating the music for movies such as “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (which he also starred in) and “The Revenant.” His most honored work in this field was for the music for “The Last Emperor”, winning him an Academy Award, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe.

In June of this year, his music will be featured in the new Hirokazu Koreeda film “Kaibutsu.”

Outside of music, Sakamoto was also known for his activist work, especially in the anti-nuclear movement. In the final month of his life, he sent a letter to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and others urging them to cancel the redevelopment plan for Meiji Jingu Gaien.

In accordance with his wishes, Sakamoto’s funeral will be for close relatives only. His label, commons, sent out a tweet today announcing his death. It included one of Sakamoto’s favorite quotes, from Hippocrates: “Ars longa, vita brevis” (“Art is long, life is short”).




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