- 03 Apr 23
Questlove, Alva Noto, HEALTH and more paid tribute to the pioneering Japanese artist on social media.
Tributes have poured in online to honour the life and legacy of world-renowned Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, a performer often regarded as a godfather of the electronic pop genre. According to a statement released by the artist’s management on Sunday, Sakamoto died on March 28th at the age of 71 after battling colon cancer.
Seen as one of the most successful composers and musicians from Japan, Sakamoto rose to prominence as a member of the influential musical trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, which he formed in 1978 with bandmates Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi in Tokyo. The trio is credited with significantly influencing the rise of techno music after the late 1970s.
“While undergoing treatment for cancer discovered in June 2020, Sakamoto continued to create works in his home studio whenever his health would allow,” the statement announcing his death reads. “He lived with music until the very end.”
In 2014 Sakamoto was first diagnosed with throat cancer, although the composer later told fans he was “in great shape” after spending some time getting treatment. The artist later revealed in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer.
“From now on, I will be living alongside cancer,” he wrote in a statement at the time. “But, I am hoping to make music for a little while longer.”
— commmons (@commmons) April 2, 2023
Yellow Magic Orchestra’s self-titled debut album is often regarded as an early example of synthpop and their tracks have been covered by the likes of Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton. In five years, the group released seven albums and became the first musical act to use the Roland TR-808 drum machine on a recording.
When the trio announced a hiatus in 1983, Sakamoto had already become a renowned musician and highly sought after composer. He created the film score for 1983’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which he also acted alongside David Bowie. Later on, Sakamoto won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on The Last Emperor and received a Golden Globe nomination for his work on The Revenant.
In January, two months before his death, Sakamoto released his twelfth and final solo album, fittingly called 12, which was recorded in 2021 and 2022.
The statement announcing Sakamoto’s death also included one of the artist’s favourite quotes: “Ars longa, vita brevis,” a Latin phrase meaning “Art is long, life is short”.
Artists including Questlove, Alva Noto and HEALTH shared tributes to the techno icon on social media, which can be viewed below.
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO . 1952-2023
WE WILL MISS YOU ON THIS SIDE OF LIFE. A VOID IS LEFT THAT I CANNOT FULLY GRASP AT THE MOMENT.
OUR DEEPEST CONDOLENCES TO THOSE WHO WERE CLOSEST TO HIM. pic.twitter.com/VCqvsFE3Ic
— alva noto (official) (@alvanoto) April 2, 2023
View this post on Instagram
— Jean-Michel Jarre (@jeanmicheljarre) April 2, 2023
— oneohtrix point never (@0PN) April 2, 2023
I am so so sad. What a loss.
— Japanese Breakfast (@Jbrekkie) April 2, 2023
— HEALTH (@_HEALTH_) April 2, 2023