Drummer Yukihiro Takahashi of Yellow Magic Orchestra Dies at 70

The band was co-founded by the well-known Japanese musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Haruomi Hosono. The prominent drummer, vocalist, and co-founder of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Yukihiro Takahashi, has passed away, according to The Japan Times. In August 2020, Takahashi underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour.

He disclosed he was dealing with new health issues the following year. According to the Japanese newspaper Sponichi, Takahashi contracted pneumonia in early January and it worsened as he was trying to recover at his house in Karzuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. The age of Takahashi was seventy.

Yukihiro Takahashi, who was born on June 6, 1952, was inspired by his older brother Nobuyuki and became interested in music. While still in junior high, he began playing the drums at parties with college musicians to gain experience. At age 16, Takahashi began pursuing a career as a studio musician, recording drum tracks for television advertisements, and securing gigs with other bands.

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While playing drums for the Sadistic Mika Band in the 1970s, Takahashi first came to the attention of the general public in Japan. At the time, American dance music had “a huge influence” on him as a drummer, and he was drawn to pop, soul, and Motown. Takahashi recruited Ryuichi Sakamoto to create Saravah!, his 1977 debut solo album that drew influence from French pop, after the trio disbanded. The two were employed by Haruomi Hosono to record for his own album, Paraiso, which bore the name Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band, in the same year. The three musicians formally established the Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978.

When the Yellow Magic Orchestra was founded in 1978, they put out their first self-titled record. With its innovative use of computer technology, synths, and video game samples, the band attracted both domestic and foreign interest. Yellow Magic Orchestra is widely regarded as a groundbreaking album in the synthpop genre as a result. It has sold over 250,000 copies in Japan, debuted on the Billboard 200 and Billboard R&B Albums charts, and had a top 20 smash single in the U.K. with “Computer Game / Firecracker.”

Yukihiro Takahashi Dies
Yukihiro Takahashi Dies 

1979’s Solid State Survivor was the follow-up to Yellow Magic Orchestra’s commercially successful debut. Throughout their original career, the band went on to release seven albums, including 1980’s Multiplies, 1981’s BGM and Technodelic, and 1983’s Naughty Boys and Service.

Though they were unable to release it under their old name due to label concerns, Yellow Magic Orchestra started to work writing and recording what would become their 1993 comeback album Technodon as soon as they came back together for the first time in 1992. It was the first of several albums that would later be published under the names YMO (crossed out with a big “x”), Human Audio Sponge, and HASYMO.

Takahashi continues to release solo music throughout the Yellow Magic Orchestra’s tenure. His 1980 album Murdered by the Music was followed by 1981’s Neuromantic, a masterpiece in his discography that featured collaborations with Hosono, Sakamoto, Tony Mansfield of New Musik, Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, and Andy Mackay.

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Without counting compilations and remixes, he went on to release more than 20 studio albums, the most recent of which being Life Anew in 2013. Takahashi’s solo work began to get a special vinyl reissue treatment in recent years. Through We Want Sounds, his first album Saravah! was reprinted in 2019, and in 2021, Neuromantic was released for the first time in forty years.

Takahashi had to make it clear that his music does not fall under the category of city pop as his discography gained popularity in Western circles. “I never imagined that music from the ‘70s in Japan and city pop, which I have very little connection to, would get popular in the U.S. I also feel that it’s a little strange that my music and music from [others like] Akiko Yano and Haruomi Hosono is all being categorised as city pop ,” he said in a 2020 interview with Dublab. “In the ‘70s, Japanese musicians were being influenced by fusion and pop from the west. Japanese musicians are generally very technical, and though they try to imitate western music, it always ended up sounding very Japanese, including the vocals. The people from the west now listening to those records, probably find a kitsch appeal in them.”

Takahashi and Hosono launched their sketch show in 2002. They collaborated on two albums under the name, both of which use conventional instruments to explore electronica and synthpop. Sakamoto and Tei from Yellow Magic Orchestra are featured on their 2002 first album, Audio Sponge. Following the mini-album Tronika in 2003, Sketch Show released their sophomore full-length Loophole, on which they collaborated with Sakamoto once more.

Takahashi most recently belonged to the electropop band Metafive. After becoming close friends while serving as Takahashi’s backing band on his 2014 concert tour, he founded the group alongside Keigo Oyamada, Yoshinori Sunahara, Towa Tei, Tomohiko Gondo, and Leo Imai. In addition to the EP Metahalf, Metagive also released their debut studio album, Meta, in 2016.

Metafive made a comeback in 2020 with the single “Kankyo to Shinri / Environmental” after several years of comparatively quiet activity. They ultimately decided to postpone the release of their second full-length, Metaatem, until 2022 and then announced that it would be the group’s final album and that they had permanently broken up.

After learning of Takahashi’s passing, a huge number of musicians, including Akiko Yano, Erol Alkan, Junior Boys, Mouse on Mars, and Good Willsmith, posted tributes in his memory. Chris Walla said, “I am gutted about the passing of Yukihiro Takahashi,” tweeted Chris Walla. “I dreamed of working with him someday. So much swagger, style, incredible moods, and colors. May your name be a blessing, your music made my world so much brighter.”

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