Saburo Kitajima（北島三郎）, who first debuted in 1962, is THE rock for Japanese music, and pretty much has been since the passing of legendary singer Hibari Misora（美空ひばり）back in 1989. In a society where age is still king, he's seen as the current holder of the kayo kyoku mantle. Except for one year in the mid-80s (yakuza trouble), he's always shown up on the Kohaku Utagassen for decades, and until recently, he was the anchorman of the show, appearing as the very final performer, dressed up in a classy yukata while paper snowflakes literally threatened to consume him. As has been mentioned on Barbara's Enka Site and J-Wikipedia, part of his longevity can be attributed to his general appearance as an everyday hard-working salt-of-the-earth fellow that a lot of Japanese can relate to.
His songs have often reflected the toil and tribulations of the working class. For me, the stereotypical Sabu-chan song is "Yosaku"which was first released in 1978. The title refers to a man and his wife labouring away. Almost half of the spare lyrics is onomatopoeic (hei, hei, ho....ton, ton, ton) as Yosaku cuts away at the tree. The first few bars by the shakuhachi are instantly recognizable, and the brass has that forceful manly thrust.
"Yosaku" is one of Sabu-chan's most famous songs but when it was first released, it went no higher than No. 25 on the Oricon weeklies.
February 5th 2019: I found out a bit of history concerning this classic.