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, January 24, 2017

Michiya Mihashi -- Onna Sendou Uta (おんな船頭唄)

As was also the case with Noelle when she wrote her article on Michiya Mihashi's(三橋美智也)festive "Iwate no Osho-san"(岩手の和尚さん)a couple of days ago, I also saw the tribute to the late singer of minyo and enka during last week's "Uta Kon" (うたコン).

Although I don't think this ballad got into the tribute on the NHK show, I think "Onna Sendou Uta" (The Oarswoman) probably has had its day in the sun and will most likely get its due some more times. For one thing, J-Wiki has posted it as Mihashi's first hit after its release in 1955. Mihashi had been singing professionally since 1942 so for him to finally get that first big hit after 13 years or so was not an insignificant achievement.

The blurb on J-Wiki didn't talk about how many records of "Onna Sendou Uta" were sold and it was still years before the Oricon charts began but I can speculate about the keys to the song's success. I think one would be those high-tone vocals of Mihashi after years mastering the minyo genre. That down-to-earth and down-home delivery also tied into that well-worn trope of unrequited love...this time, that love was for the titular woman working a job that automatically brought up those homespun images of life in the old country. With young people flooding into the cities at the time to help crank up the Japanese economy again, listening to those lyrics must have touched a few sentimental nerves.

Ironically, "Onna Sendou Uta" had originally been intended for another up-and-coming singer at King Records, Tsutae Nishimura(西村つた江). However, the director behind the recording thought that with the high delivery right from the beginning, Mihashi would have been a better choice behind the mike, and so the minyo singer was given his chance. And as they say, a star was born.

The song was written by Tetsuro Fujima(藤間哲郎)and composed by Toshiro Yamaguchi(山口俊郎). "Onna Sendou Uta" was never sung in any of Mihashi's 14 appearances on the Kohaku Utagassen.

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