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.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sumiko Sakamoto -- Yume de Aimashou (夢であいましょう)

I was born in the 1960s so my television viewing from what I can remember of that decade involved the tail-end of the big age of American and Canadian variety shows with comedy and music.

For instance, one of my earliest memories was watching The Red Skelton Show. There were others as well such as The Jackie Gleason Show, the Bob Hope specials, and of course, Ed Sullivan.

During last week's "Uta Kon" (うたコン), Hiroshi Itsuki and Yukino Ichikawa(五木ひろし・市川由紀乃)sang "Yume de Aimashou" (See You In My Dreams) which was the theme song for a long-running musical variety show that had its run between 1961 and 1966. I had always heard about this program since there were often excerpts popping now and then on NHK retrospectives, and there was something very sepia-toned and nostalgic about that theme song as sung by singer-actress Sumiko Sakamoto(坂本スミ子). As I recollect, a couple of other American variety shows from my childhood had similar ending themes: The Lawrence Welk Show and The Carol Burnett Show. There was just the way that those strings trailed off at the end of "Yume de Aimashou" that has had me imagining that old movie ending scene of slowly lifting off from the roof of a brownstone apartment and into the night sky.

The song was created by the famous songwriting duo of Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura(永六輔・中村八大). Not surprisingly, then, a number of songs created by the pair which were featured on the show's segment "Kongetsu no Uta"(今月のうた...Song of the Month)became huge hits. They would include "Ue wo Muite Arukou"(上を向いて歩こう), "Konnichiwa Aka-chan"(こんにちは赤ちゃん)and "Tooku e Ikitai"(遠くへ行きたい).

"Yume de Aimashou" was televised weekly on NHK on Saturday nights during the 10 pm hour. Watching some of those old scenes gave me the impression that although the show may not have been the very first variety show to be aired on Japanese TV, it probably did influence the beginning of a number of future long-running shows such as Fuji-TV's "Music Fair", TV Tokyo's "Enka no Hanamichi"(演歌の花道)and even "Uta Kon". The show also had a number of still-familiar faces in entertainment history such as actor Kiyoshi Atsumi(渥美清), singer Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九)and Tetsuko Kuroyanagi(黒柳徹子)who would later host another famous music program, "The Best 10" along with her own long-running afternoon interview program "Tetsuko no Heya"(徹子の部屋...Tetsuko's Room).

As for Sumiko Sakamoto, although the Osaka-born singer had a slow start to her career, her stint in 1959 as a 23-year-old opening act alongside singer Joji Ai (アイ・ジョージ) for the Latin group Los Panchos brought her overnight fame and soon she was known as one of the Queens of Latin Music. Then came her time with "Yume de Aimashou". During that time, she also appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen every year singing Latin tunes. In addition along with her music career, she also appeared regularly on other TV shows including her own "Sumiko to Utao"(スミ子と 歌おう...Let's Sing with Sumiko).

Many years ago, I heard about this award-winning Japanese movie called "Narayama Bushikou"(楢山節考...The Ballad of Narayama)which had been released in 1983. The story involved a small 19th-century village whose population practiced the custom of ubasute in which when a person reached the age of 70, he or she had to go to a mountain to die. According to the J-Wiki account of the movie and from what I was told by my mother, one of the cast had actually decided to grind down four of her front teeth to make her appearance as the elderly mother even more convincing. That actress happened to be Sakamoto and afterwards she had implants for those four missing teeth.

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