The Oscar-winning composer, who died after a long battle with cancer, worked until his death.
Ryuichi Sakamoto, the Japanese composer who helped introduce electronic music to the world as a member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra before writing some of the most beloved film scores of the past half century, died on Tuesday at the age of 71 after a battle. with cancer.
“During treatment for cancer, discovered in June 2020, Sakamoto continued to produce works in his home studio when his health permitted,” wrote Sakamoto’s management, Commons. statement announcing his death. “He lived with music until the end. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to his fans and all those who have supported his work, as well as to the medical professionals in Japan and the United States who have done everything possible to heal him.”
Born in Tokyo in 1952, Sakamoto first rose to prominence in the Japanese music community in the mid-1970s. He worked as a session musician for years, and in 1977 he co-founded the seminal electronic pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra. The group quickly became famous for its experimentation with synthesizers, and is widely recognized as a mainstreaming of electronic music as a global art form.
A lifelong cinephile, Sakamoto soon parlayed his success into a career as a film composer. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, with David Byrne and Cong Su, and won widespread acclaim for his second collaboration with the director, The Sheltering Sky. During his career he has worked with many of cinema’s most famous auteurs, including Brian de Palma, Luca Guadagnino and Apichatpong Weerasetha.
Sakamoto’s life and career took a turn in 2014, when the composer III. stage throat cancer was diagnosed. He took a short break from composing to undergo chemotherapy, but quickly returned to work as soon as he was physically able. The experiments of his creativity during his illness were immortalized in the documentary “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda”.
In 2015, he agreed to acquire Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” despite his long-standing soft spot for the filmmaker. His sparse, naturalistic score for the survival epic was widely praised and remains one of Sakamoto’s best-known works.
In a 2018 interview with IndieWire, Sakamoto explained that his battle with cancer profoundly changed the world and made him a better artist.
“I used to know things intellectually, but now I can feel them,” he said. “Now I feel that my body is part of nature, so illness is only a process of nature, and death is a process of nature, and being reborn through the soil is a process of nature.”
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