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The official website of musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto announced on Sunday that he passed away on March 28. He was 71 years old. His family already held a funeral service, and his Kab and Kab America staff shared one of his favorite quotes:
“Ars longa, vita brevis.”
Art is long, life is short.
Sakamoto had been undergoing treatment since being diagnosed with rectal cancer in June 2020. Sakamoto was earlier diagnosed with mesopharyngeal carcinoma (throat cancer) in 2014, but was treated, and that cancer went into remission.
Sakamoto was born on January 17, 1952 in Tokyo. He graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts and founded the pivotal electropop musical trio YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) with Haruomi Hosono and the late Yukihiro Takahashi in 1978. YMO‘s pioneering technopop sound with synthesizers became popular not only in Japan, but also on overseas tours. Their hits include the signature song “Rydeen” and the 1981 albums BGM and Technodelic. Despite splitting up (which they described as “breaking formation”) in 1983, they reunited (which they described as “being reborn”) in 1993 and performed together from time to time.
On his own, Sakamoto composed the soundtrack for Nagisa Ōshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence film, which won the 1984 BAFTA and Mainichi Film Awards for best film music. He then won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the Grammy Award for The Last Emperor film in 1988. Sakamoto composed the soundtracks of The Wings of Honneamise, the Appleseed anime movies, Le Chevalier D’Eon, and Sayonara, Tyranno. Most recently, he contributed the theme song for the Exception anime, and his “I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic” song appeared in the new Urusei Yatsura anime.
He received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France’s Ministry of Culture in 2009, and served as a judge in the 2013 Venice Film Festival. His father was the late Kazuki Sakamoto, the editor for such well-known authors as Yukio Mishima and Hiroshi Noma.
Outside music, he spent many years contributing to the anti-nuclear movement and supporting areas affected by disasters. His anti-war beliefs led him to oppose attempts to amend Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. He was married to singer-songwriter Akiko Yano from 1982 to 2006, and his children include the singer Miu Sakamoto.
Image via Ryuichi Sakamoto‘s Twitter account