Japanese rock hero Eiichi Ohtaki, who was a key member of influential '70s psych band Happy End, sadly passed away Monday evening (December 30). As Japanese broadcaster NHK reports, Ohtaki died after choking on a piece of apple. He was 65.
According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, Ohtaki was eating fruit at his Tokyo home around 5:30 local time when he collapsed. He was quickly taken to hospital but died shortly after.
Born July 28, 1948, Ohtaki was a founding member of Happy End, who included Takashi Matsumoto (Apryl Fool), Shigeru Suzuki and Haruomi Hosono (Apryl Fool/Yellow Magic Orchestra). Through the course of three studio albums, Happy End would go on to become one of Japan's biggest classic rock bands of all time. Perhaps most widely praised of their albums is 1971's Kazemachi Roman, whose "Kaze wo Atsumete" would years later appear on the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's 2003 film Lost in Translation.
Happy End would disband in 1973, reuniting only once for a one-off performance in 1985 at the International Youth Anniversary All Together Now concert, but Ohtaki enjoyed a very successful solo career as a musician, singer-songwriter and record producer. His 1981 album A Long Vacation was named "Best Album" of the year at the Japan Record Awards and went on to receive both 20th anniversary and 30th anniversary reissues. Strangely enough, it was also the first Japanese album to be released on CD.
Ohtaki also produced mid-'70s rock outfit Sugar Babe, as well as prominent artists such as Onuki Taeko and Tatsuro Yamashita.
As we reported in 2007, Happy End's Kazemachi Roman came in at No. 1 on Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time," with A Long Vacation nabbing the No. 7 spot.
Funeral arrangements for Ohtaki have yet to be announced.