I first saw this wonderful soul singer when the commercials selling her first album came on television near the end of the last century. My eyes were immediately riveted to her hair....good golly! Did she have a hair dryer with the power of a small radio station?! Still, that and that voice of hers got my undivided attention.
bird was born in Kyoto in 1975 as Yuki Kitayama(北山有紀）. After graduating with a degree in Sociology from Kansai University, she lived for a year in New York before returning to Japan. She was discovered in an Osaka jazz club by Shinichi Osawa（大沢伸一） (aka Mondo Grosso) and was given a featured role in an album by hip-hop deejay ZEEBRA in 1998.
In March 1999, bird released her first single, "SOULS", written by the singer herself and composed by Osawa. I really enjoyed the mellow soul coming through this voice which sounded as if it had gotten a good aging in Motown. Made for fine summer listening. The single went as high as No. 44 on Oricon. Her first album, "bird" was released a few months later in July, and that went as high as No. 8 on the album charts.
Almost a year later, bird and Osawa released a Latin-inflected version of the song called The Peach Bossa Mix which was also used as the theme song for a TV drama. You can decide for yourself which one you like better. The Latin feeling would continue in a number of her future contributions, including one that I have already profiled titled "Life".
As for her stage name, Osawa dubbed her "bird" since there was a bird's-nest quality to that afro (it disappeared some years later), and because he had also wanted his protege to sing with a bird-like quality.