I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Osamu Minagawa -- Kuroneko no Tango (黒猫のタンゴ)

Who had the top-selling single of 1970? Enka singers Shinichi Mori or Keiko Fuji? Mood Kayo group The Cool Five? was some 6-year-old Tokyo kid singing an Italian children's song about a little cat. Really....

I've heard "Kuroneko no Tango"(Black Cat Tango) from time to time over the decades, and thought it was actually a somewhat older song. Not too surprised at this overwhelming success. I've found that once in a blue moon, a kid's song managed to reach the giddy heights of the Oricon charts, such as Masato Shimon's "Oyogi, Taiyaki-kun!", B.B Queens'"Odoru Ponpokorin"(both already profiled), and "Dango San Kyoudai".

What became "Kuroneko no Tango" was an Italian children's song "Volevo Un Gatto Nero"(I Wanted a Black Cat), written and composed in March 1969 by Francesco Pagano. It didn't take long before the song managed to make its way to Japan. The recording studio, Japan Victor, asked the leader of a school's choir group to choose a member to sing the cover version. She chose her nephew, Osamu Minagawa(皆川おさむ). And the rest, they say, was history. With Japanese lyrics provided by Mizuho Miota(見尾田みずほ), the single managed to sell close to 3 million records and make little Osamu a least for a little while. Furthermore, the single managed to stay at the top of the charts for 14 straight weeks! Apparently, the kid wasn't too up on his musical genres at his tender age; he'd thought that "tango" was the name of the cat.

Having locked up the most successful song of the year, Minagawa inadvertently started a small kid singer's boom for a few years. There were a few boys and girls who were getting their tunes out in the zeitgeist....and even one American boy by the name of Jimmy Osmond was able to get his foot into the shoji because of what happened with Minagawa. As for the lad? Well, he's now a half-century old, and he is neither a professional singer nor a pet shop owner, for that matter. Osamu Minagawa is currently an industrial graphic designer.


  1. How to music goes around: Though the song is Italian, it landed in Finland via Tokyo. The Finnish lyrics say plainly: "Black Cat Tango, it took off in Japan, and arrived here too." Somehow the original version was never noticed.

    This was rather curious, since Finland has always loved Italian music and has given to Italy some of the most valuable points in Eurovision Song Contest. (It has been a kataomoi love affair anyway. Italy hasn't been as eager to answer these feelings...)

  2. Indeed, jari. I'm also reminded of some of the other songs that may have also gone around a couple of decades later such as Akemi Ishii's cover of "Cha-Cha-Cha" and Bananarama's original of "Venus" done by Yoko Nagayama in the late 80s.

  3. I have always wondered what might Neil Tennant think about Hidemi Ishikawa's version of Love Comes Quickly. It's not bad, but naturally such singers as Dusty Springfield are slightly ahead while singing PSB material.

    There must be hundreds of cover songs. Some day you might like to deliver Asuka Suita's version of Like A Virgin! ;-)

  4. I completely forgot about Hidemi's cover of "Love Comes Quickly"....ach, my ever-failing memory. There were quite a lot of covers of 80s songs back then...almost to the point that there should be a sub-genre in Japanese pop. Right now in my head, there is "Show Me" by Yukari Morikawa.

    As for Asuka Suita, to be honest, I have never heard of her (there are still so many that are unknown to me). Would you like to post an article about the song?:)

  5. That particular version? No. Just no. That whispered Asuka Suita version is a... hm, an attempt that makes Weird Al Yankovich sound like a Caruso of pop music. There might be better choices even among cover songs. ^^; (Even though anything goes for example in April 1st.)

    Seriously, I have some rare clips that have been removed from YouTube a long time ago (if those have been ever posted there in the first place). Dailymotion is used more and more for Japanese clips nowadays, because it is more indifferent. I should think what to do.

  6. Yeah, I just listened to the Suita cover of "Like A Virgin".'s not the greatest cover of all time but she gave it a good try. :)

    One of the regular tasks I have when it comes to maintaining this blog is going through the various profiles year by year and looking out for anything that has been taken down in which case I have to search for a new video. Mari Amachi and anything by Kazumasa Osa seem to be particular targets for the powers-that-be for some reason. I will take a look at Dailymotion and see if I can find some stuff there. Thanks!

  7. Great article, I am curious about the history of this song composed by francesco Pagano. many singers who sang this with each arrangement.
    The first time I heard this song actually in the 90s when the duo korean (turbo - black cat nero) sing this song and and became a hit in the his country.


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