For the longest time I had wondered who this guy was. Occasionally I'd see him on really old song medleys or a still of him on a video thumbnail, and I must say he was a rather peculiar spectacle with a contorted expression on his face, his electric guitar that never left him and that was way up to his chest. Then I did an article of Takeo Fujishima's (藤島桓夫) "Otsuki-San Konbanwa" (お月さん今晩は) not too long ago that had me digging around for a full version of that song, only then did I find out who Yoshio Tabata (田端義夫) was after encountering his rendition of the haunting, forlorn hit.
The clip above to "Otone Tsukiyo" - I've also seen the title to this song attached to his name countless times - was the first suggestion I saw as I got a taste of and began to appreciate Tabata's delicate vocals during "Otsuki-San Konbanwa", so I thought I'd finally give it a go since the guy doesn't sound half bad.
Looking at the title and the fact that Batayan sung with his eyes barely open, I had thought that "Otone Tsukiyo" was one of those slow, melancholic songs that may either bore or lull me to sleep. Little did I know that it is in fact a jaunty and pretty grand (probably due to the newer, beefed up score) sounding tune about the wandering warriors... Hearing the MC say "San do gasa" (三度笠) which are the straw hats, and this line said by Haruo Minami (三波春夫) as well in his enka-rokyoku hit "Otone Mujou" (大利根無情) during the first monologue, "Ima jya yakuza no yumojinbo" gave me an idea on what "Otone Tsukiyo" is about. I realise a lot of songs with "Otone" in it usually revolve around this particular topic.
"Otone Tsukiyo" was written by Masato Fujita (藤田まさと) and composed by Yoshiji Nagatsu (長津義司), and again because of its newer arrangement, I never thought that this song was Batayan's 2nd single released in 1939! Well, so much for telling Mom that I would stop at the 50's. There have been quite a number of covers for this song, like this powerful one by Madame Hibari Misora (美空ひばり).
Just some background info on Tabata: He was born in Mie prefecture in 1919 and was really poor, which was probably why he had trachoma as a boy, making him blind (or lose most of his sight, not entirely sure) in his right eye. When he was 13, he got inspired by the guitar-playing Dick Mine and decided from then on to become like him - a singer and guitarist. Batayan eventually made his debut in 1938 at the age of 19 with "Shima no Funa Uta" (島の船唄). Surprisingly, he had only passed away a couple of years ago in 2013 at the age of 94! Hardly ever see singers like him live to such an old age... they're usually gone by their 70s or 80s.
|He's always with his guitar...|