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Yukihiro Takahashi, Yellow Magic Orchestra Drummer and Vocalist, Dies at 70

Musician had been battling the effects of a brain tumor for several years
Yukihiro Takahashi
UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL Photo of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and Yukihiro TAKAHASHI, Yukihiro Takahashi performing on stage as part of the Meltdown Festival (Photo by Kerstin Rodgers/Redferns)

Yukihiro Takahashi, the drummer and vocalist for pioneering Japanese electronic act Yellow Magic Orchestra, has died at the age of 70.

An official cause of death has not yet been announced, but The Japan Times reports that Takahashi had a brain tumor removed in the summer of 2020. A year later, he shared on social media that he was undergoing additional treatments. The paper cited additional Japanese media reports that the musician had contracted pneumonia in early January.

Takahashi was born in Tokyo in 1952 and started playing drums professionally while still in high school, working as a session drummer for TV commercials. By 1972, he was invited to join Sadistic Mika Band, which went on to find international success, particularly in the U.K. after a tour opening for Roxy Music.

Takahashi is best known as the co-founder, drummer, and lead vocalist of Yellow Magic Orchestra, the influential electronic music group he established alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono in 1978. The trio had previously recruited one another to produce their respective solo music, and together in YMO, they were known for their innovative use of synths, digital recording techniques, samplers, and drum machines. The group’s music was inspired by disco, arcade games, and the work of European electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder.

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As a musical trendsetter and precursor to the ’80s electro-pop takeover, Yellow Magic Orchestra is one of the most successful Japanese music acts of all time and has been cited as an early influence on bands like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode. During its first era of activity from 1978-1983, the band released seven albums. A decade after disbanding, YMO regrouped for 1993’s Technodon and worked sporadically since, most recently at a 2012 festival.

Takahashi remained active on his own, releasing more than 20 albums and dabbling in remixes, compilations, and film scoring work. He also re-teamed with Hosono in 2002 as Sketch Show, with Sakamoto contributing as well.

In recent years, Takahashi launched a new electro-pop project Metafive with members of his solo backing band. Its debut album arrived in 2016, with Metaatem appearing last year. Takahashi’s influence was saluted on social media by several musicians, including Sakamoto, who posted a grey box in memoriam on his Twitter page.