Possibly one of the most-loved figures in Japanese pop
music, Sakamoto was born in Kawasaki
on November 10, 1941
. He made his singing debut in 1960.
Sakamoto's biggest claim to fame was the 1961 hit 上を向いて歩こう Ue o muite arukô, which was released in the United States as "Sukiyaki" (solely in the interest of being easy to pronounce) and topped the Billboard chart on June 15, 1963, beating out Lesley Gore's "It's My Party." Sakamoto only performed the song: it was composed by Nakamura Hachidai and written by Ei Rokusuke, allegedly over a fallen relationship with actress Nakamura Mieko.
After that, he recorded several other songs that made it big in Japan: 幸せなら手をたたこう Shiawase Nara Te o Tatakô, 見上げてごらん空の星を Miagete Goran Sora no Hoshi o, and 明日があるさ Ashita ga aru sa.
At his peak, tragedy struck. On August 12, 1985, Sakamoto boarded Japan Airlines flight 123, a Boeing 747 bound for Osaka Itami Airport. Shortly after takeoff, the airplane crashed outside Tokyo, killing 520 people on board. Sakamoto was killed in the disaster at the age of 43.
Despite this, his music continues to be released and re-released on the Toshiba/EMI label. Sakamoto Kyu's Greatest Hits was released in 1994 and contains virtually all of his most popular songs. On October 25, 2000, techno artist Maiko released the maxi single "Sukiyaki 2000," a remix of Sakamoto's original.
His life is now on display at the Sakamoto Kyu Memorial Museum outside Sapporo.