Shusei Nagaoka, an illustrator best known for making the imaginative, fantasy-based album covers for Earth, Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra and other bands in the 1970s and ’80s, died of a heart attack Tuesday at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, his family said Saturday. He was 78.
A Nagasaki native, the artist, whose real name was Shuzo Nagaoka, grew up offshore in Iki, where he had moved to before Nagasaki was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945. He quit Musashino Art University in Tokyo before completing his studies and went on to establish his career as an illustrator.
After moving to the United States in 1970, Nagaoka based himself in Hollywood and produced album covers for the popular artists and bands at the time, including Earth, Wind & Fire and the Carpenters. Some of his best known work appeared on the Earth, Wind & Fire albums “All ‘N All” and “I Am,” as well as Electric Light Orchestra’s “Out of the Blue.”
Nagaoka’s works also included official posters for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix and the International Exposition in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 1985.
Nagaoka returned to Japan about a decade ago.