By Michael Diana
OMG guys, it’s our 50th issue-versary! Obviously we’re only a few years old, but we’ve done fifty years’ worth of yearly/twice-yearly work in only . . . however many years. Good job us, and good job you, faithful, bored readers! In celebration, I bring you someone whom you’ve probably heard of. If you go to work parties involving karaoke, you might be familiar with the song “Tsugaru Kaikyou Fuyugeshiki.” I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about legendary singer Ishikawa Sayuri, who has become almost synonymous with the song. This is a great chance to learn a few of her songs with which to impress your coworkers and Japanese friends next time you go to karaoke together.
debut: “Kakurenbo” 1973/3/25
Born Ishikawa Kinuyo in Kumamoto prefecture, Ishikawa and her family moved to Yokohama when she was in fifth grade. She began vocal lessons there, and when she was in middle school, she participated in a singing contest in place of a friend who was unable to take part. A role in the drama Hikaru Umi in the fall of that year brought her into the entertainment world, paving the way for her debut as a singer in 1973. Ishikawa found it difficult to gain much traction against better known names, such as the popular “Hana no Chuu3 trio” composed of Yamaguchi Momoe, Mori Masako, and Sakurada Junko (all from Star Tanjou!, which I mentioned a year ago in my Idols of the 80s series).
It was in 1977 that Ishikawa saw her first big success in “Tsugaru Kaikyou Fuyugeshiki.” With lyrics penned by legendary lyricist Aku Yu, creator of Star Tanjou!, the song earned her the best singer award at the 19th Japanese Record Awards (Yamaguchi Momoe also won the same award for her song “Cosmos”). This was only the first of many, many hits to come. To date, Ishikawa has released 118 singles, most recently singing the ending theme of last year’s Lupin III anime series. She has also appeared at the NHK Kouhaku Utagassen 38 times.
A versatile singer, Ishikawa is able to evoke a range of emotions in her voice, a quality which I personally really admire. She can give you harsh, angry vocals. She can give you DRAMA. She can give you crippling sadness. Even at 58 she still sounds lovely. She can also make a cover song her own. Truly a unique and talented woman. Let’s have a look, shall we?
“Tsugaru Kaikyou Fuyugeshiki”
“Anya no Shinjuutate”
“Suna ni Naritai”