Johnny Marr, Massive Attack and David Bowie’s estate lead tributes to Ryuichi Sakamoto

The pioneering composer died on March 28 aged 71

Tributes have been paid to the pioneering electronic musician, composer and actor Ryuichi Sakamoto who has died aged 71.

The news was confirmed via a post on Sakamoto’s official social media accounts.

A statement on his official website reads: “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. Finally, we would like to share one of Sakamoto’s favourite quotes: ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’ [Art is Long, life is short’].”

Sakamoto was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014, prompting him to take a year off music. After treatment, the cancer went into remission, but in 2020 it was confirmed he had been diagnosed with rectal cancer.

In an essay published last June, Sakamoto revealed that he had undergone surgery in late 2021 to remove cancer that had spread to both lungs and was still battling stage 4 cancer.

“Since I have made it this far in life, I hope to be able to make music until my last moment, like Bach and Debussy whom I adore,” he wrote.

In December, Sakamoto shared a livestream concert titled ‘Ryuichi Sakamoto: Playing the Piano 2022’. He also shared a video message that explained that due to treatment, his “strength has really fallen, so a normal concert of about an hour to ninety minutes would be very difficult,” so he had recorded each track separately before editing them together “so it can be presented as a regular concert.”

During his 50 year career, Sakamoto won numerous awards [including an Oscar, a Grammy, a Bafta and two Golden Globes] for his work as a film composer, scoring the likes of The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Little Buddha, and The Revenant. As well as scoring Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, Sakamoto also starred in the war film alongside David Bowie.

Sakamoto was also a founding member of pioneering electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Following his death, tributes have been paid to to Ryuichi Sakamoto on social media, with the likes of Johnny Marr, Questlove, Massive Attack and David Bowie’s estate leading the way.

David Sylvian of Japan also paid tribute, sharing three tiles on his official Instagram which featured Sakamoto’s dates of birth and death, a black and white photo of Sakamoto with his face turned away from the camera, and a quote from the poet Jack Gilbert: “I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.”

Sylvian was a longtime friend and collaborator of Sakamoto’s, who he had collaborated with as far back as the early 1980s. Their 1983 song ‘Forbidden Colours’ appeared on the soundtrack of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. Among their other collaborations was the 2003 EP ‘World Citizen’.

Sakamoto’s most recent album, ’12’, was released in January, his first non-soundtrack album for nearly six years.

He was scheduled to perform in France next week, as well as at the Manchester International Festival in June.

This is a developing story. 


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