I have no words but i am so lucky to have had the chance to share some time with this gentleman and friend whose radiance filled my life with only wonderful things.
I was just a teenager listening to his music. Later, i started learning Japanese and the lyrics of his songs were the first thing i decided to translate, listen and try to understand.
Yukihiro's songs release all the sweetness and delicacy of romantic poems. His voice, his attitude, his notes, everything soothed me, gave me positivity and well-being.
Years later, when i was lucky enough to really meet him to photograph him in Tokyo, and to hang out with him, i discovered that what, until then, were only impressions corresponded to the truth... "Kouki" really was like that, kind and serene, gentle and positive.
Now the past beats inside me like a second heart. I wish i could just rewind back to some old days and press pause...just for a little while.
Many moments come to mind: i remember Kouki telling me that he first met future YMO bandmate Hosono, five years his senior, when the two performed at a dance party in the holiday resort of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, in the late 1960s. “We were just first, or second-year high school students, but Hosono said the music we played was more interesting than his band’s”. It's funny how things work out but i know that it was in Karuizawa that they, Yukihiro and Haruomi, said their goodbyes.
One day Yukihiro recalled that even their record label, Alfa Records, hadn’t known what to make of them (YMO) at first. “When we made the first album, nobody at the label understood what we were trying to do,” he told me. “There was a management meeting where they were kind of like, ‘If you make this, it’s going to put us in a difficult position'”. He remembered that it took the enthusiasm of American record executive Tommy LiPuma, whose A&M/Horizon Records label would release YMO’s debut overseas, to convince Alfa to sign off on it.
The image of a man walking into the sunset with his dog beside him crosses my mind. I thank heaven for making me stop to tie my shoes that evening, so that I can now have this memory too.
Yukihiro Takahashi died in Karuizawa on Jan. 11, because of an aspiration pneumonia. He previously revealed that he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2020. He was 70.
Takahashi, who was born in Tokyo, launched his career in the early Seventies, performing with his brother, Nobuyuki Takahashi, in the band Buzz and glam-rock group Sadistic Mika Band that brought glam and prog rock to Japan in the early 1970s and was among the first Japanese acts to achieve success outside the country, especially in the UK, opening for Roxy Music on their Siren Tour in 1975-76 and appeared on BBC TV and radio. They recorded the first album with Pink Floyd producer Chris Thomas. After the second lp, the band disbanded, Takahashi continued on with some of the members as the Sadistics, and released two studio albums before splitting ways.
In 1978, Takahashi, keyboardist/vocalist Ryuichi Sakamoto, and bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Haruomi Hosono (previously of the famed Japanese rock bands Apryl Fool and Happy End) joined forces to form the supergroup Yellow Magic Orchestra. Utilizing synths, sequencers and drum machines, the trio were trailblazers in the electronic genre, ushering in the Eighties electro sound. They are often ranked alongside the German electronic group Kraftwerk as pioneers in electronic music and significant influences on emergent genres like hip-hop, New Wave and techno. Yellow Magic Orchestra was among the first bands to employ in live shows devices like the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and the Moog II-C synthesizer, which they used to complement Mr. Hosono’s funky guitar and Mr. Takahashi’s tight, driving drums. Unlike their German counterparts, who leaned into the avant-garde nature of electronic sound and referred to themselves as automatons, Yellow Magic Orchestra found ways to bend it toward pop music, blending in elements of Motown, disco and synth-pop. Takahashi was remarkably skilled at taking what were obviously artificial, technologically mediated sounds and using them to build songs that sound fully and organically human.
Their single “Computer Game,” which appeared on their debut eponymous album, became a surprise worldwide hit — making the Top 20 in the U.K. and making waves in the U.S. YMO’s sophomore set, the album Solid State Survivor arrived in 1979 and included English lyrics by Chris Mosdell.
YMO continued into the next decade with a series of releases — 1980’s Xoo Multiplies, two 1981 albums BGM and Technodelic, and 1983’s Service and Naughty Boys among them — but disbanded despite their huge popularity, as the individual trio members looked to pursue their initial solo careers; however, they continued to perform together in their solo endeavors, with Hosono and Sakamoto appearing on Takahashi’s first four solo albums. That five-year run between 1978 and 1983 marked something of a zenith for Japanese pop — perhaps the only moment in the country’s musical history when its most popular group was also its most cutting-edge.
In 1980, embracing the emerging synth-pop and city pop genres, Takahashi released his second solo LP Murdered By the Music, featuring his YMO bandmates along with Mosdell’s English lyrics. It was followed the next year with Neuromantic, a masterpiece of electro sophisti-pop, which featured Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay as well as his solo hit “Drip Dry Eyes” and "Something in the Air". Takahashi was here someone who knew he was innovating. The electronic music wasn't meant to invoke the past, but it was meant to invoke the future. Electronic music will keep evolving, but early genre efforts like Neuromantic have rarely been surpassed. That’s why it's easy to continue to be nostalgic for this music; it fills us with a sound of a future that never came.
Takahashi next collaborated with Be-Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson and his YMO bandmates for 1982’s What, Me Worry? that continues where Neuromantic left off, with more sparkling vintage J-pop underscored by his celebrated bandmates. ‘It’s Gonna Work Out’ is a lighter, more electro Scary Monsters, while ‘Sayonara’ is an exquisitely multi-layered synthpop movement sung in Japanese.
1983’s Tomorrow’s Just Another Day feels less surefooted than its predecessor, but that’s only if we’re nitpicking. It begins strongly with the irresistible ‘Ripple’, symphonic with sparse and sporadic verses in that way that made Sebastien Tellier’s ‘La Ritournelle’ so unusual. ‘My Bright Tomorrow’ and ‘Kagerou’ also measure up to Takahashi’s exacting standards, though the 50s doo-wop of ‘Rokugatsu no Tenshi’ feels a little tossed off. ‘Maebure’ has a more radio friendly sheen, with a production job that includes everything from saxophones to sitars, perhaps repositioning Yukihiro as a musical matinee idol and leading man – indeed, it performed better in the Japanese charts than any of his other albums, so job done.
WILD & MOODY (1984) is the artist’s sixth and last studio solo album on the YEN Label. In contrast to his previous album Tomorrow’s Just Another Day, which mostly consisted of mellow tunes, where half had Japanese lyrics, this album explores digital funk sounds and features all English lyrics setting the stage to pursue a global audience. Iva Davies of the Australian band Icehouse appears on 3 tracks; lyrics for track 2 were written by Steve Jansen, who considers Takahashi his mentor. Bill Nelson duetted with Takahashi.
In 1981 he had also formed the Beatniks with Moonriders’ Keiichi Suzuki, releasing Exitentialism, the first album in what would be a decades-long partnership.
In 1986 a collaboration takes place with Steve Jansen (brother of Sylvian and drummer of Japan) with a maxi single which presents the songs "Stay Close" on the first side and "Betsu ni", maybe even more beautiful and certainly more sophisticated, on the second one.
In the following years the style, sometimes smoother than in the past, moves between sophisti-pop, synth-pop and smooth jazz, sensibly varying the dosage of the genres according to the albums and singing more often in japanese, like for example, Once A Fool, Only When I Laugh, EGO, BROADCAST FROM HEAVEN, A Day In The Next Life, Life Time, Happy Time, MR. YT, Fate Of Gold, Portrait With No Name, A Sigh of Ghost, A Ray Of Hope...
In the 2000s, Hosono and Takahashi formed the glitch pop duo Sketch Show, which from September 2002 to November 2003 released two albums "Audio Sponge " and "Loophole" and one EP "Tronika".. peacefull pop of great quality.
In 2008 a new project called Pupa, a band that provided smooth tone canvas upon which lead vocalist Tomoya Harada layers her sophisticated vocals. Takahashi often took his own turn at the mic, offering up his uniqely smooth, always identifiable vocal style. Pupa lyrics were a mix of mostly Japanese and English, and sometimes stray off into other languages as well, but nothing ever feels forced, and the music on their debut "Floating Pupa" makes the perfect soundtrack for a lazy Tokyo Sunday in a clean, modern cafe. The band’s clothing, all designed by Takahashi, was also a big part of the band’s image.
In 2014, Takahashi toured with a supergroup known as Metafive ( with DJ and producer Towa Tei, multi-instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada, better known by his stage name Cornelius, Yoshinori Sunahara, formerly of major-league dance-pop act Denki Groove, and singer-songwriter Leo Imai) releasing an album "Meta", an EP, and a concert album in the later half of the decade, then, in 2020, the single “Environmental”. Takahashi took time off to undergo brain surgery for a tumor shortly after the song’s release. Last year they released the new, and last, album.