You Say It's Your Birthday: Ryuichi Sakamoto

Today is Ryuichi Sakamoto's 46th birthday. An accomplished new-age artist,

Sakamoto is best-known to the average listener for composing the scores to

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," "The Sheltering Sky" and "The

Last Emperor." Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Sakamoto was playing

piano by the age of 3. In 1974, he enrolled in the graduate studies

program at the University of Art in Tokyo, where he studied electronic music and

music from other cultures. After he graduated in 1976, Sakamoto

quickly became a popular producer and a session musician, working with many

Japanese musicians from a variety of genres.

By the end of the '70s, Sakamoto was heavily involved in the art-rock trio

Yellow Magic Orchestra, a group that helped to pave the way for synthesizers

in popular music. Y.M.O. disbanded in 1983, and Sakamoto embarked upon an

influential solo career, mixing sounds from different cultures and

experimenting with synthesizers and echo effects. His work has blazed the

trail that many of today's ambient acts are walking down and has influenced the

cultural sound-blending work of David Byrne and Paul Simon. On Feb. 10, Sakamoto will be releasing a new album entitled Discord, with DJ Spooky guesting.

Other birthdays: William Hart (the Delfonics), 53; Steve Earle, 43;

Paul Young, 42; Jez Strode (Kajagoogoo), 40; Susanna Hoffs (Bangles), 41;

John Crawford (Berlin), 41; and Shabba Ranks, 32.