Yellow Magic Orchestra Drummer Yukihiro Takahashi Dies at 70

He previously underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jan 16, 2023

Yukihiro Takahashi — the influential Japanese musician best known as the co-founding drummer and vocalist of Yellow Magic Orchestra — has died. Japanese public broadcaster NHK and The Japan Times report the artist passed away January 11, citing aspiration pneumonia as the cause. Takahashi previously shared he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour in 2020. He was 70.

Born in Tokyo in 1952, Takahashi first came to prominence as the drummer of glam rock outfit Sadistic Mika Band, joining in time to have his playing appear on the band's self-titled 1973 debut. 

Sadistic Mika Band achieved notable success in the UK, and supported Roxy Music on tour in the mid-'70s — marking the first-ever UK tour by a Japanese rock band. Upon the divorce of guitarist Kazuhiko Katō and vocalist Mika, and their subsequent departures from the group, Takahashi and the remaining members continued as the Sadistics until the end of the '70s.

The later part of the decade also saw Takahashi make his solo debut with 1978's Saravah!, a French pop-inspired LP that featured future Yellow Magic Orchestra bandmates Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono. That year, both Takahashi and Sakamoto would contribute to Hosono's Paraiso (credited to Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band) and Pacific albums, while Takahashi and Hosono would also appear on Sakamoto's solo debut Thousand Knives — the former earning a credit as fashion coordinator.

In late 1978, the trio released their self-titled debut as Yellow Magic Orchestra. Akin to plugged-in pioneers like Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder, YMO are highly regarded for their use of synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, drum machines and emergent digital recording technologies of the era, proving foundational to the electropop explosion of the next decade, and electronic styles of the future.

YMO would release six additional albums over the course of their original run: Solid State Survivor (1979), X∞Multiplies (1980), BGM (1981), Technodelic (1981), Naughty Boys (1983) and Service (1983). Eighth and final album Technodon would arrive in 1993, with the band billing themselves as YMO (stylized with their name crossed out) due to label issues. 

Outside of YMO, Takahashi, Sakamoto and Hosono would continue collaborating and performing on each other's recordings. In 1980, Takahashi delivered sophomore solo album Murdered By the Music featuring his YMO bandmates along with English lyrics written by Chris Mosdell. The following year, he released follow-up Neuromantic, which featured Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay. His most recent solo LP is 2013's Life Anew, featuring Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha.

In the early 2000s, Takahashi and Hosono would form Sketch Show. Under the moniker, the duo released three studio albums and a remix collection, with Sakamoto contributing to 2002 debut Audio Sponge.

More recently, Takahashi formed electropop group Metafive with Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada), Towa Tei, Yoshinori Sunahara, Tomohiko Gondo and Leo Imai. Having previously backed Takahashi on his 2014 concert tour, the group made their debut with 2016's Meta, following that with second and final full-length Metatem last year.

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