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Japanese rock singer and actor Yuya Uchida dies at 79

Kyodo

Japanese rock singer and actor Yuya Uchida, who performed as the opening act for the Beatles’ concerts in Tokyo in 1966, has died of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital, his management office said Monday. He died Sunday morning at 79.

The native of Hyogo Prefecture was regarded as a key figure in spreading rock ‘n’ roll music in the nation, as both a performer and a producer of music festivals.

His death followed the passing away last September of his wife Kirin Kiki, a veteran actress who appeared in award-winning films and battled with cancer. The couple, survived by their daughter Yayako, lived separately for more than 40 years.

Uchida, a fan of Elvis Presley who fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll as a teen, honed his skills by performing at the Nichigeki Western Carnival, a pioneering rock music festival held in Japan from the late 1950s, as well as other stages before he was selected as an opening act for the historic Tokyo concerts by the Beatles. In 1969 he helped form Flower Travellin’ Band to target international audiences.

The eccentric rocker and actor also starred in domestic films such as “A Pool Without Water” (“Mizu no nai Puru”) and “Mosquito on the 10th floor” (“Jukkai no Mosukito”), as well as appearing in English-language films “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and “Black Rain.”

He wrote the scripts for “Comic Magazine” (“Komikku Zasshi nanka Iranai!”) and “Dioxin from fish!” (“Sakana kara Daiokishin!”).

Uchida also showed interest in social issues and politics, unsuccessfully running for Tokyo governor in 1991 and offering aid for victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.