Composer and conductor Naozumi Yamamoto, who helped popularize Western classical music in Japan, died Tuesday of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 69.

Yamamoto is known as the composer of the theme song for the 48-movie series “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo” (“It’s Tough Being a Man”), which starred the late actor Kiyoshi Atsumi.

Born in Tokyo in 1932, Yamamoto was a precocious musician who learned the basics from his father, Naotada Yamamoto, who was a composer and orchestra conductor. At the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, he studied under Hideo Saito along with Seiji Ozawa, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Yamamoto became a household name in 1967 when he directed an orchestra for an NHK music program. He went on to lead the orchestra on a popular NHK music show for about 10 years through 1982.

He also directed the New Japan Philharmonic and NHK Symphony Orchestra, while composing memorable pieces for movies, TV dramas and commercials.

With his trademark long hair, mustache and black-framed glasses, Yamamoto was a longtime fixture for the Japanese public.

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