Joe Yamanaka, best known as the frontman for Japrock heroes Flower Travellin' Band, has passed away. The artist died on Sunday (August 7) following a long struggle with lung cancer. He was 64.
Born Akira Yamanaka, Joe led Flower Travellin' Band through many an epic psych odyssey, including hard-riffin' albums such as 1972's Made in Japan (which was actually recored in a studio on Vancouver Island) and 1973's Make Up. However, it's 1971's mind-expanding Satori (named the No. 1 album in Julian Cope's Top 50 list in his Japrocksampler book) that Yamanaka will be most fondly remembered for.
Along with his work in Flower Travellin' Band, he was an accomplished solo artist, releasing multiple albums between 1974 and 2009. A close friend of Bob Marley's, he also fronted the Wailers for about five years after Marley's death.
Yamanaka was also an occasional actor, appearing in 11 projects between the years of 1977 and 2004, including the 1993 film Ulterior Motives, where he played himself.
Yamanaka was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of 2010.
Strangely enough, Phoenix Records will give long-overdue vinyl reissues to Flower Travellin' Band's Made in Japan and Make Up on August 16. The label will also reissue Challenge! on vinyl by the group's pre-Flower Travellin' Band incarnation, Yuya Uchida & the Flowers.