The announcement came out just a couple of hours ago so I think the folks in Japan are still getting the news although I've read a few YouTube comments here and there. Sadly, singer-songwriter Masaaki Hirao（平尾昌晃）passed away on July 21st at the age of 79 due to pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital.
Hirao was definitely one of the big songwriters for the kayo age, and along with other songwriters such as the late Yu Aku（阿久悠）and Takashi Matsumoto（松本隆）, the list for his songwriting contributions to the plethora of singers over the decades on J-Wiki is so large that it has to be alphabetized. However, all the way before he started becoming more well-known as a composer, he was one of the big rockabilly singers during the 50s and 60s.
One of his earliest singles as a singer was a cover of the classic "Diana" originally by the Canadian-born singer Paul Anka. Created by Anka and Joe Sherman for release in July 1957, the Japanese version was released in 1958 with King Records director Go Makino（牧野剛）providing the Japanese lyrics under the pen name of Takashi Otowa（音羽たかし）. Listening to Hirao's version, the lyrics come off as being a little stumblier than with other Japanese-language covers of American pop at the time. However, there's no doubt that Hirao had the golden voice.
Although Hirao didn't perform the song each time he came onto a music-variety show, it was still enough that I always pegged him as much as the Japanese "Diana" guy as I did peg him as the fellow behind the duet for "Canada kara no Tegami"（カナダからの手紙）. And I think he really enjoyed performing it at concerts and TV shows.
We've had a few kayo songwriters pass away during the existence of this blog, and yesterday, we lost another one of the major composers for the old music. However I am grateful for the many many songs that Masaaki Hirao left us whether it be in the pop, aidoru and anison genres. May he rest in peace.
I also wrote up a Creator article on him last year so there is some biographical information about him there along with a number of his other creations, thanks to J-Wiki.
You can take a listen to the original by Anka.