Legendary Film Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto Has Died

Iconic composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has passed away after a battle with cancer.

By Britta DeVore | Updated

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Another Hollywood legend has passed away. According to Deadline, Oscar, Grammy, and BAFTA winner, Ryuichi Sakamoto, has died at 71 after a battle with cancer that has been ongoing since June 2020. A celebrated name in music, Sakamoto was standing at the forefront of the beginnings of the electronic movement.

Beginning his music career in 1970, Ryuichi Sakamoto began to professionally perform while studying at university. First picking up gigs as a session musician, he would find his niche when he formed Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) alongside his friends, Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi in the late 1970s. It was through his work with YMO that Sakamoto was able to push his talents over the edge and begin to make a name for himself. 

Quickly giving back to the music community, the talented composer left his mark on electronic music and hip-hop, seamlessly blending the styles and pioneering a fresh sound. By the 1980s, Ryuichi Sakamoto was gaining even more traction and drawing the attention of some major players including David Bowie and members of Talking Heads. It was through these connections that the keyboard player would go on to put out several solo albums during the decade with names like Iggy Pop and Nam June Paik performing alongside him.

His first major award sweep would come in 1983 when Ryuichi Sakamoto appeared opposite David Bowie in the Nagisa Ōshima co-penned and directed film, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Based on the real wartime experiences of Sir Laurens van der Post, not only did Sakamoto star in the feature but he also wrote the score. For his work, the musician would rake in an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA, and two Golden Globe Awards along with the bragging rights of watching the film’s single “Forbidden Colours” becoming a worldwide hit.

Ryuichi Sakamoto
The Last Emperor (1987)

His next groundbreaking film composition would come in 1987 via The Last Emperor. For this title, Ryuichi Sakamoto co-composed the score alongside Cong Su and Talking Heads member David Byrne, who was recently nominated at the Oscars for his work in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Another award circuit favorite, the film would nab several honors that year including the Academy Award for Best Original Score. 

Throughout the years, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s work has appeared alongside legendary names like Platoon and Natural Born Killers director Oliver Stone on his miniseries, Wild Palms, and in Scarface and Carrie helmer Brian de Palma’s Snake Eyes. Teaming up with filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu on his Leonardo DiCaprio-led action drama, The Revenant, the composer would be mentioned for yet another BAFTA for his work on the film. 

Passing on his love of music to his family, Ryuichi Sakamoto, who climbed the Japanese pop charts in 1999 with “Energy Flow,” shared his artful passion with his daughter and well-known Japanese pop singer, Miu Sakamoto. Sakamoto’s loved ones gathered to mourn the loss of the iconic musician in what was reported to be a small funeral and celebration of life. At this time, our condolences go out to Miu Sakamoto and those mourning the loss of Ryuichi Sakamoto.