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.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hiromi Iwasaki/Ryoko Moriyama -- Cherbourg no Amagasa (シェルブールの雨傘)

Warning: The following article may trigger copious amounts of tears. Viewer discretion is advised. 😢

But first some background. When my parents went off to Japan 30 years ago for a long-awaited visit, they came back with some wonderful souvenirs for me in the form of tape cassettes. The above two are tapes by Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)from 1984. The one on the right is a general BEST compilation while the tape on the left is an album of cover songs which was supposedly a limited edition of cover tunes done by the singer. Titled "Shiroi Koibito-tachi"(白い恋人たち...White Lovers), it may have been only available on cassette since I couldn't find any mention of it in Iwasaki's discography on J-Wiki. However, I think it is an extrapolation of her 2nd album of cover tunes of well-established English and French songs from March 1979, "Koibito-tachi"(恋人たち...Lovers). The LP peaked at No. 14 on Oricon.

One small aside before we get into the main topic is that my good friend who had come with us on the 1981 trip to Japan remarked that Hiromi's left hand on her hip on "Shiroi Koibito-tachi" looked so much older than the rest of her. To this day, I still have no understanding what he was on about.

On both the tape that I got from my parents and on the original "Koibito-tachi", there was one ballad, "Cherbourg no Amagasa" which is far better known in English as the title theme song for the 1964 French/German movie "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" or as it is known in French as "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg". Plus the song is officially known as "Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi" or "I Will Wait For You" by Michel LeGrand and Jacques Demy.

Iwasaki's performance of the song was the first that I had ever heard of this film with Catherine Deneuve and catching it finally last year on Turner Classic Movies, I realized that it was the first time I had ever seen a musical cover every word of dialogue on screen. I also realized that it was incredibly tragic, and for a fellow like me who was weaned on those happy-happy Hollywood musicals, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" had me depressed for the next day and a half.

Still, Iwasaki pulled off a barnburner of a performance with "Cherbourg no Amagasa" to the point that it was one of the highlights of my tape. If there had been any doubt about her making the leap from talented aidoru to stage musical actress, this song probably would have dispensed it with the power of the Death Star on Alderaan (wow...I actually compared Iwasaki with "Star Wars"). Her amazing vocals taking care of the Japanese lyrics by Kazuko Katagiri(片桐和子)with such tenderness will probably have me reaching for the Kleenex, now that I know what the movie is all about.

Not surprisingly, there have been many covers of "I Will Wait For You" including one about a decade earlier by folk singer Ryoko Moriyama(森山良子). Her rendition was given in English and although her delivery was also wonderful, I was a bit worried with that bit of urgency in the melody at the intro which had me wondering whether the arranger was just a tad too go-go or "MacArthur's Park". Moriyama's version is perhaps in the CD remastering of her 1969 album "Aidoru wo Utau"(アイドルを歌う...Ryoko Moriyama Sings Favourites)although I'm not sure if it had been included on the original LP. I didn't particularly feel any waterworks coming from here.

The lachrymal output, though, will most likely gush out here since Connie Francis' cover of the song was used in the last few minutes of what was, bar none, the saddest ending to an episode of "Futurama", "Jurassic Bark". If you are a dog owner or know the saga of Hachiko, YOU...WILL...NEED...TISSUES! Maybe you will even want to hug your canine a bit harder.

And of course, there is that final heartwrecking scene of "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg" at the gas station (good golly, even gas stations in France sound tres elegante!) when the instrumental version of the song gets played. For those who have never seen the movie and want to get the full effect (namely, bawl your eyes out), you might want to hold off catching this video.

For me, I'm going to go now since I've got something in my eye....


  1. If you reckon that everything French sounds elegant, here's Iwasaki singing "L'amour est bleu" in French. Well, Yoshimi does. Hiromi later joins in in Japanese.

    I've seen Yoshimi sing other songs in French as well. Does she have a fanclub in France or something?

    Oh, and I agree with you (no surprise there) that Hiromi's rendition of Umbrellas of Cherbourg is fantastic. Here's another song of hers though, that makes me think of 1960s chansons. Yunagi Kaigan is from the 1980 album Wish.

    And some more info I've found on the track from Shiroi Koibito Tachi that eventually made it into single form. I was wrong about Omoidasanaide being a Brenda Lee song. It was originally sung by Keiko Shimazaki in 1973, about whom I can find nothing except that she sang this, awfully (she makes Junko Sakurada sound like an accomplished singer). It was then covered by Brenda Lee in 1975, and Midori Utsumi in 1977, before the best known (and frankly, best) version by Hiromi in 1979/82.

    1. Hello again.

      Hey, even if Hiromi doesn't sing in French, I know she does a pretty good job in English. :) Haven't heard "L'amour est bleu" in years.

      Y'know...I don't know whether the Iwasakis have fan clubs in France but considering that I've come to the realization that kayo kyoku does have enclaves of fans around the world, I wouldn't be surprised if Hiromi and Yoshimi have enthusiasts in France. I knew one commenter who ran her own fan club for Yutaka Ozaki from Italy.

      Gonna have to listen to "Yunagi Kaigan" again from "Wish". Yes, her version of "Cherbourg" is indeed terrific. I also liked her takes on "Black Orpheus" and "You're Too Beautiful" from my old tape.

      I take it this Keiko Shimazaki didn't last too long in the music industry? :)

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    1. Good to hear from you again, Kenji.

      I realize that all of us here are in a fairly rarefied niche but maybe somewhere out there, there may be a kayo appreciation club covering a number of singers. :)

  3. Speaking of musicals, both Hiromi and Ryoko played the role of Hodel (2nd daughter) in Fiddler on the Roof, Morishige edition )named after Hisaya Morishige, who played the main character). Ryoko played in 1984, Hiromi in 1986. Minako Honda would later play the same role in 1994 and 1998, Nishida edition (after Toshiyuki Nishda).

    And on a poignant note, Minako said that she'd been wanting to play the role of Fantine after watching Hiromi play opposite her. She'd been cast in that role for 2005 before she had to pull out with health problems.


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