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.