Composer and Yellow Magic Orchestra founder Ryuichi Sakamoto dead at 71

Ryuichi Sakamoto
(Image credit: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

Composer, electro-pop pioneer, writer, producer and actor Ryuichi Sakamoto has died, aged 71.

The death of the Tokyo-born musician, a founding member of highly-influential electronic music group Yellow Magic Orchestra, was confirmed today on his social media channels: Sakamoto passed away on March 28.

A statement on the composer's website reads: “We are deeply saddened to announced the passing of artist and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto on the 28th of March, 2023. He was 71 years old.

While undergoing treatment for cancer discovered in June 2020, Sakamoto continued to create works in his home studio whenever his health would allow. He lived with music until the very end.

We would like to express out deepest gratitude to his fans and all those who have supported his activities, as well as medical professionals in Japan and the United States 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. Please understand that we are unable to accept any calls of condolences, offerings of incense or flowers, and the like.

Finally, we would like to share one of Sakamoto’s favourite quotes:

Ars longa, vita brevis
Art is Long, life is short

While many will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family's privacy during their time of grief."

Sakamoto's death comes just two months after the passing of his former YMO bandmate Yukihiro Takahashi, who died on January 11.

Aside from his work with YMO, Sakamoto is perhaps best known for his soundtrack work, the composer having scored the soundtracks for The Last EmperorThe Sheltering SkyLittle Buddha, The Revenant and more. He made his film-scoring debut with the soundtrack to 1983's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which he also made his acting debut, alongside David Bowie. Across his five decade-long carer, the composer won an Oscar, a Grammy, a Bafta and two Golden Globe awards. His most recent album, 12, was released in January. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.