Ryuichi Sakamoto, composer for ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ and ‘The Last Emperor,’ dies at 71

Ryuichi Sakamoto, composer for ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ and ‘The Last Emperor,’ dies at 71
via commmons
Isa Peralta
April 4, 2023
Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has died at the age of 71.
On Tuesday, Sakamoto’s management team announced in a statement that the award-winning musician passed away after years of battling cancer.
“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 his music until the very end,” the statement read.
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude to his fans and all those who have supported his activities, as well as the medical professionals in Japan and the U.S. who did everything in their power to cure him,” the statement continued.
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Sakamoto was born in Tokyo on Jan. 17, 1952.
While attending Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in the 1970s, Sakamoto became a producer, composer and session musician. As a solo artist, he released over 20 studio albums and 10 live albums.
He also became the co-founder and keyboardist of the band Yellow Magic Orchestra, which would go on to pioneer several electronic music genres.
Outside of experimental music, Sakamoto worked on over 40 soundtracks.
He starred alongside David Bowie in Nagisa Ōshima’s 1983 film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” which he also composed the score for. Following the film’s release, Sakamoto won a BAFTA Award for best film music.
In 1987, his score for Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” won him an Oscar for best original score, a Golden Globe for best original score, and a Grammy Award for best score soundtrack for visual media.
Sakamoto has also received accolades for his work on films such as 1990’s “The Sheltering Sky,” 1993’s “Little Buddha” and 2015’s “The Revenant.”
For Sakamoto’s contributions to music, France’s Ministry of Culture awarded him with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2009. In 2013, he received the Golden Pine Award (Lifetime Achievement) at the International Samobor Film Music Festival.

Sakamoto was also an activist.
One of the organizations he supported was the anti-nuclear organization Stop Rokkasho. In 2012, he co-organized a “No Nukes” concert to demonstrate against nuclear power plants. Eighteen acts, including Yellow Magic Orchestra, performed at the event.
Last month, he reportedly sent a letter to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike protesting the planned redevelopment of the Jingūmae neighborhood in Tokyo, which would involve the felling of hundreds of trees.
Sakamoto was previously diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014.
He spent a year away from music to focus on his recovery.
In January 2021, he shared that he was battling rectal cancer, and in June 2022, he announced that he was battling stage 4 cancer.
Following Sakamoto’s death, several netizens took to social media to post about him.
Some of them include fellow members of the entertainment industry, such as Japanese actor Haruka Abe, who tweeted that Sakamoto’s music “will live on forever,” and Korean American DJ Tokimonsta, who shared a letter to her late friend on Sunday.
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Sakamoto’s management team announced that a funeral service was held for him, but they did not reveal further details about the event.
Sakamoto, who was based in New York for the past three decades, leaves behind his wife Norika Sora and four children.

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