A few days ago, I wrote about The Kingtones' cover of the timeless "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" as one example of how Japanese singers loved to give their versions of songs from the Great American Songbook starting from the early 20th century.
Of course, it wasn't just doo wop that got its sincerest form of flattery from the Japanese. Jazz was another favourite genre. To wit, the song "Lover, Come Back To Me" which was originally created in 1933 by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II for the Broadway show "The New Moon". The above is a cover by the immortal Billie Holiday in 1952 according to its description.
When I settled down in my armchair (and with my weight, I really DID settle down...rimshot!) last night to see the weekly "Uta Kon"（うたコン）, the episode started with the legendary Queen of Kayo Kyoku, Hibari Misora（美空ひばり）, cutting up a rug on the stage to perform "Lover, Come Back To Me", otherwise known in Japanese as "Koibito yo, Ware ni Kaere". I thought that there was going to be some sort of tribute to Misora although I hadn't thought that there was any anniversary to be recognized in the month of October as far as she was concerned. As it turned out, the video that was shown (which is the one above) was the appetizer for the week's guests to come out and do a jazzy first segment.
Still, that did get me to write this particular article up since Misora was not just a singer of enka but also of jazz...a lot of it, so that I believe it is pertinent to include some of her covers of the genre's classics. Although I read online that her first performances of "Lover, Come Back To Me" were in the 1960s, I couldn't track things down to a certain LP or single, unfortunately.
However, I could find out that one of the earliest covers done by a Japanese singer was released in 1935 by Dick Mine（ディック・ミネ）. His version, whose Japanese lyrics were written by him, comes off as a croon to all those lovers out there.
In the J-Wiki write-up for "Koibito yo, Ware ni Kaere", I read that even Yellow Magic Orchestra had even given its contribution according to the original source of "Aspect" magazine in 2007. Well, that got my interest up, and just by chance, there was even a YouTube video illustrating that ("was" being the operative word). That contribution took place on a 1982 episode of Fuji-TV's "Music Fair" which had the theme of "Ongaku no Time Machine"（音楽のタイムマシン...Time Machine of Music）that night.
So what they did was feature the song of this article through three different genres: jazz, fusion and technopop. Jimmy Harada and The Old Boys（ジミー原田とオールドボーイズ）took care of the original version, the house band handled the fusion, and of course, YMO provided the technopop. And all three versions were sung by jazz/fusion singer Mari Nakamoto（中本マリ）. The technopop version was pretty amusing with its bleeps and bloops as Nakamoto seemed to be channeling either DEVO or some British New Wave band. Anyways, the music starts from 3:13. (Note: Unfortunately that "Music Fair" video has been taken down but a short version and a cover version of Nakamoto's technopop take are above.)
But in the end, as much as I love YMO, I think I will always prefer the jazz orchestra version. Speaking of the jazz version, I have a follow-up.