With the works of singer-songwriter Kei Ogura（小椋佳）, the words "heartfelt" and "emotional" come to mind. The ballad "Ai San San"（愛燦燦）for the late Hibari Misora（美空ひばり）is one representative example that he had created, and listeners can be forgiven if they suddenly have the urge to look out the window into the sky or pull out an old photo album.
Ogura appeared as a guest on a recent episode of NHK's morning wide show "Asaichi"（あさイチ）, and he just seemed like the most unassuming and humble person that has ever graced the program. During his segment, it was revealed that for the first five years of his music career, it was not his face that graced the record single covers but that of a handsome model. Although I think the cat had already been out of the bag about that revelation by the time Ogura had his first performance, he still felt the need to apologize for his much plainer appearance to the audience. But I think the fans were not there to admire his physique but to love his wonderful voice. There's something about the way that he sings that acts like a balm to the day's trials and tribulations.
Also, during the segment, a brief montage of Ogura's songs was shown on screen, including a brisk but mellow number titled "Saraba Seishun" (So Long, Salad Days). I found out that this was actually the B-side to his debut single, "Shiosai no Uta"（しおさいの詩...The Song of the Roar of the Sea）which came out in February 1971. Not surprisingly, his lyrics speak about looking back but not lingering on the old days...something that might be easier said than done for a number of folks.
It took Ogura 23 years but he finally made it onto the Kohaku Utagassen in 1994 by performing this particular song. My only memory of that New Year's Eve special was that I didn't pay too much attention to it although it was on my telly since a bunch of us were having a good ol' nabe party in my then-new apartment. It would seem that I helped to perpetuate the Kohaku's reputation as being video wallpaper on December 31st. Still, I could imagine that Ogura's long-awaited appearance on the NHK stage was warmly welcomed by the audience there.