Drummer and vocalist Yukihiro Takahashi has been a leading figure in the Japanese pop scene for nearly 50 years, thanks to his broad artistic scope and brisk acceptance of music technology. In particular, Yellow, one of his country’s most successful musical endeavors, was the most prominent figure in his Magic Orchestra. At Karuizawa on January 11th. he was 70 years old.
The cause was aspiration pneumonia, a complication of a brain tumor, his management company said in a statement.
Founded by Takahashi and him in 1978 with musicians Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono, Yellow Magic Orchestra is, alongside German electronic group Kraftwerk, pioneers in electronic music, hip-hop, new wave and techno.
Yellow Magic Orchestra was one of the first bands to use live show devices such as the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and Moog II-C synthesizer, with Hosono’s funky guitar and Takahashi’s tight, driving I used it to complement my drums.
Unlike their German peers, who gravitated toward the avant-garde nature of the electronic sound and called themselves Automata, the Yellow Magic Orchestra found a way to fuse elements of Motown, disco and synth-pop and bend it into pop music. I was.
On the 1980 TV show Soul Train, the band played a powered-up version of Archie Bell and Drells’ “Tighten Up,” after which show host Don Cornelius bewildered and interviewed Takahashi. . It goes without saying that Kraftwerk never appeared in “Soul Train.”
Takahashi was “extremely adept at taking clearly artificial, technologically mediated sounds and using them to construct fully and organically human-sounding songs,” said Takahashi at the University of Chicago in Japanese Literature. said Michael K. Bullduffs, a professor of culture. in a telephone interview.
The band and its technology-influenced sound arrived just in time. Japan had long since reestablished itself as an economic powerhouse after the war, but by the late 1970s it was becoming something else. Techno has become a global icon of utopianism and futuristic cool. When Sony launched the Walkman in 1979, Kenzo Takada and Issey Miyake were dominating Paris fashion shows with their playful and visionary designs.
The Yellow Magic Orchestra’s eponymous debut album, released in 1978, sold over 250,000 copies. His sophomore ‘Solid State Survivor’, released in 1980, sold nearly a million copies. Six of the band’s seven studio albums reached the top five of the Japanese pop charts, all of which fell prey to covers and samples well beyond Japan.
Afrika Bambaataa, 2 Live Crew, J Dilla, De La Soul and many other artists freely borrowed from the Yellow Magic Orchestra archives participated. Michael Jackson remade the song “Behind the Mask,” but his version was not released until 2010 after his death.
The band’s music also inspired early video game soundtrack composers who were looking for electronic sounds that would appeal to them even after hours of playing. The Yellow Magic Orchestra gave the title to the first track of their debut album, Computer Game Circus Theme, and Takahashi wrote the music for several games afterward.
He and his bandmates were already established musicians when they formed Yellow Magic Orchestra, and continued to release solo projects during the group’s six-year run. Takahashi has released about 20 albums in his career, not counting numerous remastered reissues and live recordings.
Neither he nor the band sat still artistically. His first group, Sadistic Mika, his band brought glam and prog his rock to Japan in the early 1970s, and he was one of the first Japanese acts to find success outside the country. Toured the UK with Roxy Music and played for the BBC.
Takahashi’s 1978 solo album Saraba!, produced by Sakamoto, incorporated bossa nova and reggae influences, and later that year, Yellow Magic Orchestra tweaked the Orientalist stereotype. . “Firecracker” inspired by Tiki.
Before and after the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Mr. Takahashi was a frequent and enthusiastic collaborator, forming bands on the spot and bringing friends to play on individual tracks. He worked frequently with British guitarist and singer Bill Nelson, Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera.
Takahashi wrote much of the music performed by the Yellow Magic Orchestra. He also played drums and sang lead vocals, although many of their songs were instrumental.
His voice, especially on early hits like “Drip Dry Eyes” (1984), was rich and ruched, strikingly similar to that of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry. He sported a pencil mustache and in later life wore a fedora and thick-rimmed glasses. Much like Mr. Ferry, he came across as effortlessly cool, just a little world-weary, and a hipster who believed better days would come.
In a 2009 interview sitting between Sakamoto and Hosono, Takahashi said, “We were hopeful about the future, unlike now.” He said, “I said, let’s make music that will be a bridge to the future.”
Yukihiro Takahashi was born on June 6, 1952 in Tokyo. He began his music career early, playing drums in his college band in middle school, and at age 16, as a session musician.
His bereaved family is his wife, Kiyomi Takahashi. His brother, music producer Nobuyuki Takahashi. and his sister Mie Ito.
I studied design at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, but did not graduate. In the 1970s, he developed his own apparel line, his Bricks. He often designed costumes worn by the Yellow Magic Orchestra, including a striking trio of bright red Mao suits.
The Yellow Magic Orchestra disbanded in 1984, and its members cited musical differences. The track won an Academy Award — but they remained close and met up occasionally. In 1993, he released the album “Technodon”, and in 2012, he appeared in a charity concert against nuclear power plants.
Takahashi said in 2009 that he stopped performing as Yellow Magic Orchestra, saying, “We were following the path of a rock band, so we quit.” Think of someone I admire more. “
Miharu Nishiyama contributed to the report.