I'd been meaning to put up this Hiromi Go（郷ひろみ） song for some time now, but with the news of the passing of famed movie critic Roger Ebert tonight, tonight was indeed the night. My favourite movie of all time happens to be "Casablanca" with Humphrey Bogart, and on the DVD that had come out some years ago, Ebert provided one of the best commentaries I'd ever heard for a movie; it was basically like attending a great university lecture in Film Studies.
But to the song itself. I'd first heard "Aishuu no Casablanca"(Sorrowful Casablanca) when Go appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen in 1982. It was the second song that I'd ever heard by the aidoru-turned-pop crooner since his appearance in the previous Kohaku for the lively "Oyome Samba"（お嫁サンバ）. And for years, I had thought that Go's 43rd single was truly a domestic creation. True, it was a Latin-tinged love song but it also just seemed to have that bit of kayo kyoku arrangement in it for some reason. It wouldn't be for years after buying a disc of AOR songs from the 1980s that I realized Bertie Higgins of "Key Largo"fame was the original writer and singer behind the song, originally titled just "Casablanca". That song was released early in 1982 with Go's cover coming out in July.
"Casablanca" wasn't a hit at all for Higgins back in the USA, but it did become an international one....notably throughout Asia. According to J-Wiki, a radio personality in Japan sought to capitalize on "Aishuu no Casablanca"and started up a contest to search for someone to write the Japanese lyrics. The singer was chosen by the studios....Hiromi Go. But in the contest, over 1,000 entries came in before an 18-year-old female high school student won. However, after the record was cut with those lyrics by the student, the reaction was, well, not overwhelmingly positive, so there was a quick turnaround with professional lyricist Keisuke Yamakawa（山川啓介） pinch-hitting. No news on whatever happened to that student aside from her probably curling into a fetal position in her room. Unlike Higgin's original English lyrics, Yamakawa's Japanese lyrics never made any mention of the legendary movie but they supposedly try to bring the atmosphere surrounding it to musical life.
Now, Go didn't sound anything like Bertie Higgins, but the song and his delivery fit each other hand-in-glove, in my humble opinion. Perhaps it was because Go's cover was the first version I'd heard but it's been pretty much imprinted into my head that it's his song. And unlike Higgin's take with the song, Go ended up with a major hit. It surpassed even "Oyome Samba" to reach No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and sold half a million records. It ended up becoming the 14th-ranked song of 1982.
For comparison, here is the Bertie Higgins' "Casablanca".
The only other Western pop song that seemed to strike me as being a kayo kyoku in disguise was WHAM !'s "Where Did Your Heart Go?" from 1986. Not surprisingly, it was also adapted to be sung in Japanese by an aidoru. Unfortunately, I've lost track who that singer was. Ah well...another kayo kyoku mystery to be solved.
In any case, I dedicate this profile to the memory of Roger Ebert (1942-2013).