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.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Chiyoko Shimakura -- Jinsei Iroiro (人生いろいろ)

I woke up this morning to view the news on NHK of the passing of enka singer Chiyoko Shimakura(島倉千代子) at the age of 75. Debuting at the age of 16 with "Kono Yo no Hana"(この世の花...The Fruit and Bloom in the World), she had a career that spanned over half a century with multiple hits, and was also a pillar in terms of her attendance on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen, having come onto the show annually from 1957 to 1986.

The name and the figure were very familiar to me as she often appeared on TV as that slightly portly figure with the beaming smile. However, I was never all that familiar with her discography until I heard "Jinsei Iroiro", which was released in April 1987. It was written by Daisaburo Nakayama(中山大三郎)and composed by Kuranosuke Hamaguchi(浜口庫之助). As for the meaning of the title, it literally means "Various Things In My Life" but I think the feeling would be better conveyed with something like "The Ups and Downs of Life". In any case, it's the song that I will always associate with her. And whenever she sings it, her face takes on that countenance of an older, wiser and sadder woman but still with that wide smile.

And Shimakura and just about everyone familiar with her knew that she sang this one from the heart. Back in 1975, there was an incident in which the singer allowed herself to be the guarantor of an acquaintance who since fled after owing a significant amount of money to a loan shark. When I was watching the NHK elegy this morning, I heard that the collectors went to her home and terrified her so much that she had to seek safety in one of the theatres she performed at for some time. It took her about 7 years to pay back the hundreds of millions of yen owed during which she had to take side jobs working in cabarets and publishing photo books. However, at the same time, she was never ostracized from the Kohaku Utagassen, a fate that befell some other singers, and her popularity was still as high as it ever was, since she also appeared as a tarento on TV.

Ironically, Shimakura first sang "Jinsei Iroiro" in the year that her illustrious record for appearances on the Kohaku was finally broken. For some reason, she wasn't invited onto her musical home-away-from-home in 1987, but amends were made the following year when she was able to perform "Jinsei Iroiro". I guess the song may have been a late bloomer since the accolades came in 1988 with a couple of Japan Record Awards and a peak ranking of No. 16 on the Oricon weeklies. It finished the year as the 54th-ranked song, and spent 86 weeks on the charts.

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