Yukihiro Takahashi, the influential musician, drummer, and vocalist who co-founded Yellow Magic Orchestra, has died, The Japan Times reports. Takahashi underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in August 2020. The following year, he revealed he was suffering from additional health problems. Takahashi was trying to recover at his home in Karzuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, but he caught pneumonia in early January and it worsened, according to Japanese publication Sponichi. Takahashi was 70 years old.
Born on June 6, 1952, Yukihiro Takahashi was drawn to music thanks to the influence of his older brother, Nobuyuki. He learned how to drum by playing with college musicians at parties while he was still in junior high. By the time he turned 16, Takahashi started working professionally as a studio musician, recording drum parts for TV commercials, and began picking up gigs in other bands.
Takahashi first garnered mainstream attention in Japan in the 1970s while drumming in the Sadistic Mika Band. As a drummer, dance music from the U.S. was “a huge influence” at that time, and he found himself drawn towards pop, soul, and Motown. After the group dissolved, Takahashi hired Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce Saravah!, his 1977 debut solo album that drew inspiration from French pop. That same year, the two were hired by Haruomi Hosono to record on his own album, Paraiso, which was credited to Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band. Come 1978, the three musicians officially formed the Yellow Magic Orchestra together.
Yellow Magic Orchestra released their debut self-titled album upon forming in 1978. Its use of computer technology, synths, and video game samples was immediately unique, prompting both nationwide and international interest in the band. Yellow Magic Orchestra is largely considered to be a pioneering album in the the synthpop genre as a result, having sold over 250,000 copies in Japan, entering both the Billboard 200 and Billboard R&B Albums charts, and its single “Computer Game / Firecracker” becoming a top 20 hit in the U.K.
Yellow Magic Orchestra followed their breakthrough debut with 1979’s Solid State Survivor. The band went on to release seven albums total during their initial run, including 1980’s ×∞ Multiplies, 1981’s BGM and Technodelic, and 1983’s Naughty Boys and Service. When Yellow Magic Orchestra reunited for the first time in 1992, they got to work in the studio, writing and recording what would be their 1993 comeback album Technodon, although label issues prevented them from releasing it under their original moniker. It was the first of many records to be released under names like YMO (crossed out by a large “x”), Human Audio Sponge, and HASYMO moving forward.