The Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto — who wrote the haunting score to “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and won an Oscar for 1987’s “The Last Emperor” — has died aged 71.
His management team announced that he died on March 28. He had been treated for cancer in recent years.
“We would like to share one of Sakamoto’s favorite quotes: ‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’ Art is long, life is short,” a statement read.
Born 1952 in Tokyo, Japan, the composer enjoyed the music of The Beatles in his early years as well as classical greats like Bach.
He played keyboard with the influential electronic act Yellow Magic Orchestra, a band he co-founded in 1978. The group would go on to enjoy international success, with its experimental use of synthesizers widely though to have shaped the emergence of genres including house and techno.
But Sakamoto was best known for his soundtrack work, which brought numerous awards.
He wrote the score and starred alongside David Bowie in the 1983 film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.” Four years later, he took home a Golden Globe and Oscar for best music for his score for the “The Last Emperor.”
He worked continuously until his later years, including the score for 2015 film “The Revenant.” An album of music from the composer, curated by “The Revenant” director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is set to be released on May 5.
Outside music, Sakamoto was known for activism — and in particular for his anti-nuclear views, which saw him demonstrating against nuclear power plants and co-organizing a “No Nukes” concert in 2012. He also prominently campaigned against a now-repealed Japanese law that forbade dancing after midnight or 1 a.m. in bars, clubs and various other public venues.
Tributes to Sakamoto, from the arts and beyond, flooded in on social media following news of his death. Japanese actor Haruka Abe tweeted that his music “will live on forever” and US author Frederick Joseph described it as “the score of many of my life moments.”
DJ and producer Tokimonsta, who has previously collaborated with Sakamoto, meanwhile posted a letter describing him as “one of the most forward-thinking, nurturing supportive artists of his generation.”
In accordance with Sakamoto’s wishes, a funeral service was held with his close family members, his management team said.