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.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Toi et Moi/Jackey Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets/Pinky & Killers/Mari Amachi -- Niji to Yuki no Ballad (虹と雪のバラード)

Now that Tokyo will be hosting the Summer Olympics for the 2nd time in a little less than 7 years' time, eventually the organizers will have to get a superstar singer to come up with a zinger of a theme song. Of course, various artists from Maki Ohguro to Misia to Anri have come up with songs that were used for various Olympiads, but for the Tokyo Games, the chosen singer or singers will have to have 20/20 vision for 2020 since it is the capital of Japan, after all.

Now, take a fellow by the name of Bunichiro Kawamura(河邨文一郎). In 1970, he was given the assignment to write the lyrics for the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo with Kunihiko Murai(村井邦彦) as the composer. National broadcaster NHK gave Kawamura 3 conditions to help him formulate the theme song for the Sapporo Games: 1) The song has to last long after the Games are done. 2) It has to express the hearts of the residents of Sapporo. 3) It shouldn't have a heavy ceremonial feel but it must be able to be sung by everyone from the Buddhist monk on his guitar to thousands of people in chorus (translated and paraphrased from the J-Wiki article for the song). No pressure. And the kicker was that Kawamura's stock in trade wasn't lyrics....he was an award-winning poet and orthopedist! The poor man had to go through 2 weeks' worth of writer's block before that pen of his finally got going.

However, Kawamura somehow got the job done. In February 1971, "Niji to Yuki no Ballad" (The Ballad of Rainbow and Snow) was first broadcast on the NHK "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた...Songs For Everybody) series and would later get officially released as a single, starting off with folk duo Toi et Moi(トワ・エ・モワ).

The above two videos have Toi et Moi giving the recorded and live performances. I decided to write about "Niji to Yuki no Ballad" since I actually caught it tonight on a special NHK concert performance. The song was the duo's 9th single released in July 1971 and was the most successful version, hitting the No. 7 spot on Oricon. I can't be sure about Condition 1 when it comes to how long its popularity lasted once the Sapporo Games were over, but I think Conditions 2 and 3 were met. It doesn't come off as overly ceremonial but it does show that pride in an anthemic but folksy way.

Some weeks after Toi et Moi's version got released, Group Sounds band Jackey Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets (ジャッキー吉川とブルーコメッツ)brought out their own folk/GS cover of the song as their 25th single. However, since it seemed that everyone got their fill of "Niji to Yuki no Ballad" through Toi et Moi, there weren't too many people left to go for The Comets' cover.

(Unfortunately, the video has been taken down.)

But then between Toi et Moi and The Comets was the version given by Pinky & Killers(ピンキーとキラーズ) which was incidentally the band's 2nd-last single released in August 1971. Lead vocalist Yoko Kon(今陽子) gives a nicely full-throated performance here.

Then there is Mari Amachi's(天地真理) soft and relaxing cover which was never released as a single, and considering that the 70s aidoru had only started her career in October 1971, she sounded remarkably reassured here. The song was actually a track on her debut album, "Mizuiro no Koi"(水色の恋...Water-Coloured Love) (December 1971), which managed to become the top album of 1972.

Now, as for those 3 conditions, I wonder if NHK will be dusting those off once more in the year 2018, and who will be the one to follow them to get a song out. Could it be Noriyuki Makihara? Yasushi Akimoto?

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