Yoshiki is a musical legend in the way that it is difficult to become without dying, overdosing on drugs, or otherwise turning into a living train wreck. He has reinvented himself many times, all equally emphasizing his goals as a performer, songwriter, producer, and person. Above all, he has gone through the kind of shit that would cause a lesser musician to lose all hope and curl up in a large house, jaded and alone. Yoshiki, however, continues: if you have not heard of him yet, you likely will soon.

Yoshiki Hayashi was born on November 20, 1965 in Japan. He officially dropped his last name at the start of his musical career, and now goes by simply 'Yoshiki'.

When he was four years old, he began classical training in piano lessons. This classical influence continued to show itself throughout his career; he regularly composes symphonic versions of rock songs and piano concertos to play with them.

When he was ten, Yoshiki found his dead father's body - he had committed suicide by hanging. This had a profound impact on Yoshiki's life and caused him to later write the X Japan song Tears.

Yoshiki grew up very close to his best friend Toshi, and they were both interested in music. During high school, Yoshiki learned to compose on the piano and play a mad set of drums; Toshi learned to play the guitar and sing. Although Toshi had initially wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor, he followed Yoshiki to Tokyo after school to begin a career in music. These two friends were the beginnings of X.

Yoshiki auditioned countless musicians for his musical brainchild; unfortunately, due to his nature as a control freak and a bit of a perfectionist, X went through many lineup changes in the early 80s before finally securing hide on lead guitar, Pata on rhythm, and Taiji on bass. Toshi gave up guitar and began to sing exclusively. With Yoshiki's songwriting skills and talent to match, X - or X Japan - eventually became the most popular, influential, and legendary Japanese rock band to date.

They were not initially signed, however, due to Yoshiki's own introduction of a style now called visual kei. He wore dresses and fishnet stockings; the band members spiked their hair yards high and piled on makeup fit for Kabuki theater. These did not go over well with the major labels, and to prove them wrong, Yoshiki started his own company - Extasy Records. On the independent label, X released their first album, Vanishing Vision.

It was an instant success. In fact, it was one of just two indie albums in Japanese history to place on the Oricon charts (the other being an album by Dir en grey).

When Sony signed X Japan and Blue Blood was released, the career of X Japan exploded. They were a sensation, and Yoshiki was the star.

To begin an opinionated section, there are many reasons that X, and Yoshiki in particular, had so much success.

Yoshiki is brilliant. He doesn't just write songs, he writes epics. Something like Amethyst, an orchestral ballad, sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a Shakespearean tragedy. Rose of Pain and Tears are both over ten minutes long - they're beautiful, like like classical rock symphonies. And don't forget Art of Life, the magnum opus of a full twenty-nine minutes - worth every one. This is not to say Yoshiki is restricted to ballads - his badass rock songs are unparalleled. Orgasm. Blue Blood. Kurenai. If you listen to an X Japan song, chances are very good that Yoshiki wrote it (the most noteable exceptions being the songs by hide).

Yoshiki is obscenely talented. Upon hearing the opening riffs of Dahlia, my sister commented, 'Holy crap - is that a drum machine?' I replied, 'No, actually, that's called a Yoshiki.' Yoshiki, you see, is a man who passed out regularly at shows from drumming too hard. It's someone who ran from the piano to the drumset and back again during the same song, someone who can play guitar well enough to write Week End and arrange strings successfully enough to have the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform X Japan songs.

Yoshiki is also beautiful. If he doesn't downright claim the title of most-attractive-person-ever, then he's certainly a leading contender.

During his decade-long career as X Japan's leader and star, Yoshiki learned to produce, mix, arrange, and program. Simply put, he was X Japan, to the point that the cover art for their albums was often just an artistic photograph of his face.

His personality made itself evident through stage shows and songs. Yoshiki is a shameless drama queen, and X Japan songs always display their share of whispered words, sweeping string sections, and in the case of Silent Jealousy, four separate modulations. He's a very intense, emotionally honest person, and arguably depressive, indicated by blatantly self-destructive lyrics. Some of his compositions are so self-absorbed and sad that they border on cheesy, but Yoshiki's sense of artistry always manages to pull them off with style.

But genius, unfortunately, often borders on insanity, and a number of complex factors (including band control, an overbearing attitude, and Toshi's sudden marriage) caused Toshi make a decision to leave the band in April of 1997. Understandably, Yoshiki was devastated, and he and Toshi, extremely close for over twenty years, fought bitterly. hide convinced Yoshiki to hold a Last Live with Toshi in December of 1997, which was fraught with pain and emotion.

Following the breakup of X Japan, hide continued with his solo career, and constantly had to reassure Yoshiki that his dreams hadn't turned to dust. hide suggested that they try to reform X in the future, and Yoshiki agreed.

In May of 1998, hide committed suicide by hanging. He was the same age as Yoshiki's father.

Tears was rereleased and dedicated to hide. At the funeral, Yoshiki and Toshi performed a tear-filled version of Forever Love, arguably the most famous X Japan song in existence. Yoshiki also gave a speech, attempting to comfort fans, but he was shaking and crying so hard that he could barely hold the paper on which it was written.

The loss of so much of his life in just one year pushed Yoshiki close to the edge. He went to his home in Los Angeles and did nothing, no interviews or songwriting, for a year. Many were afraid that he would also kill himself.

He didn't. He wrote a classical piece, Anniversary, and performed it for the Emperor of Japan's ten year anniversary in November of 1999. According to Yoshiki, this was when he realised that he couldn't give up; he couldn't stop performing, because - in his own words - "I love music as one human being loves another human being."

Since then, he has worked on projects as varying as his musical interests. He joined the popular trance group globe, after working with its leader, Tetsuya Komuro, on an earlier project called V2. He has accepted the position as composer for the Japanese World Expo 2005. He has released a classical album featuring the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra playing orchestral versions of his most recent works, including Amethyst and Anniversary.

Yoshiki's new pet project is Violet UK. Like every artistic endeavor he has helmed, Violet UK is incredibly avant-garde. It blends rock, classical, trance, and ethereal vocals. It stays true to his vision of visual kei by combining image with music: the live performances will feature models in a choreographed fashion show. A debut performance in 2002 managed to create an atmosphere in which a full orchestra, a beatbox/turntable, two female vocalists, and Yoshiki himself playing guitar and piano all feasibly fit on an opera stage and worked together beautifully. I couldn't even picture it until I saw it, but it's genius. He is genius. hide once said of him, "It's difficult to know the meaning of genius, but if there was anyone I could possibly describe as a prodigy or genius, it would be that man."

In 2007 Yoshiki announced the reunion of X Japan. Their future is still being written.

Yoshiki lives and works in Los Angeles, recording, writing, and producing.

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