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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Works of Keisuke Yamakawa (山川啓介)

This may go down as one of the sadder years for Japanese songwriters. In the wake of the passing of Toru Funamura(船村徹)in February and Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃)last month, I only heard a couple of nights ago of the death of lyricist Keisuke Yamakawa. He passed away on July 24th 2017 at the age of 72 from lung cancer, just three days after Hirao's departure and only five days after I had written an article for a song that he wrote for Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美), "City Lights".

I'm uncertain whether the announcement of Yamakawa's passing made the major newscasts that night, and I could only find something like the above "homemade" announcement on YouTube, although there was a very short news story about it on TV Asahi without any footage shown.

So, for the second time this year, along with Funamura, I'm writing this Creator article also as a eulogy of sorts to a departed songwriter. Going over the songs created by the Nagano Prefecture-born Yamakawa, I found that there were a number of tunes that I have yet to cover on the blog that I feel deserve their own articles. Therefore the songs below will be ones that I've already talked about but at least putting them together here, readers may find out how wide his range was when it came to the songs he helped write.

Keisuke Yamakawa was born Takao Ide(井出隆夫)in October 1944 in the city of Saku, Nagano Prefecture. It is a city that I have visited since a couple of my old friends now live there. He graduated from Waseda University's Department of Literature and became active in songwriting, screenwriting and translating from English lyrics. Unfortunately, that was pretty much most of what I could glean from his J-Wiki bio but it does provide a comprehensive list of the singers and songs that he was involved with, so perhaps those will do more of the talking. Of course, I can only give a thin sliver of his output.

In the couple of news reports I saw regarding Yamakawa's death, the one song that got mentioned was "Madonna Tachi no Lullaby"(聖母たちのララバイ)which he wrote for Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)in 1982. It turned out to be Iwasaki's greatest hit and probably his crowning achievement.

Unfortunately the J-Wiki article didn't give a chronological order about his output. However, I think one of his earliest creations was the flashy "Taiyo ga Kureta Kisetsu"(太陽がくれた季節)for the folk-pop group Aoi Sankaku Jougi(青い三角定規)in 1972.

In comparison to Funamura who focused on enka and Hirao who stayed on the traditional side of kayo through aidoru and Mood Kayo, I think Yamakawa tipped a bit more to the other side of Japanese pop including the genres of City Pop and the more far-ranging New Music. I realize that he was a lyricist and not a composer but he did get into a wide range of music.

That also included anison. Perhaps one of his most famous sets of lyrics in this area was for the ending theme song for the first "Galaxy Express 999" (銀河鉄道999)movie in 1979 as performed by Godiego(ゴダイゴ). He and band vocalist Yukihide Takekawa(タケカワユキヒデ)made it very inviting to hop aboard the most famous train in anime.

One of my personal favourites, though, is Junko Yagami's(八神純子)"Naturally" (1983) which had that sweet/sultry tang.

And even into the 20th century, Yamakawa was even able to provide words to one of the most cheerful and earworm-y commercial jingles for a company, "Hello, Sofmap World" in 2004. Groovy 80s composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)came up with the happy melody so it was quite the atypical creation for both veterans.

Yamakawa has now left this mortal coil but there are still many songs left by him for me to delve into.

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