Anime composer Masaaki Hirao passed away in a Tokyo hospital on July 21,2017 due to pneumonia. He was 79 years old at the time of his passing.
Hirao debuted as a singer in 1958, and along with Mickey Curtis and Keijirō Yamashita, he gained popularity as a member of “Rockabilly Sannin Otoko” (Three Rockabilly Men). He switched to composing in 1966, and songs he composed for Akira Fuse and Michiyo Azu won him Japan Record Awards in 1967.
Hirao went on to compose the theme song for the Galaxy Express 999 anime, as well as the Captain Harlock: Mystery of the Arcadia and Galaxy Express 999: Glass no Clair anime films. He also contributed compositions for Takarazuka Revue’s The Rose of Versailles musicals.
In 1974, he opened the Hirao Masaaki music school, which trained other singers such as Mayo Kawasaki, Seiko Matsuda, Ayumi Nakamura, Hiroko Moriguchi, and Yōko Hatanaka. In 2002 he established the non-profit organization Love & Harmony, which donates musical instruments and performances to elderly or disabled people on welfare.
In 2003, the Japanese government awarded Hirao the Medal With Purple Ribbon, which honors academic and artistic achievement. During his lifetime, he served as a member of the Japanese Composer’s Association and The Japanese Society for the Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC).