Last night, I had the opportunity to listen to Come Along Radio's latest Summer Mixtape and in what has become a custom, I enjoyed the hour-long session while watching another enjoyable J Utah video, this time a drive through San Francisco. I also had the opportunity to visit the city almost 30 years ago while I was taking a trip with some of my fellow colleagues at the Board of Education for my town on the JET Programme. We were able to visit Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and the zigzag Lombard Street among other places. My only regret was that we couldn't get to see the Golden Gate Bridge because of another San Francisco phenomenon: the fog.
J Utah in his description for this particular video mentioned that this was filmed during the current pandemic so traffic is lower and I have also noticed that a lot of the shops have been boarded up. This hit home especially on the news that many areas in the United States including California have had to backtrack on any re-openings. And so I'm hoping that my friends in the Golden State, fellow KKP contributor Larry Chan in the SFO area and Come Along Radio's Rocket Brown in LA, are hanging in there, as well as my other friends elsewhere in the country.
One of my most cherished standards happens to be "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", and of course, the ultimate singer for this classic is Tony Bennett. However, having said that, the first time I ever heard "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" wasn't his rendition but one that was performed by The Norman Luboff Choir via that record collection of standards that my father had gotten along with the RCA stereo decades ago.
I love Bennett's version but there was also something very haunting and elegiac about the cover by The Normal Luboff Choir, almost as if their version was meant as a tear-jerking musical requiem for a beloved longtime resident in the City by the Bay. Unfortunately, I couldn't find their take on YouTube or elsewhere.
According to Wikipedia, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" was originally written back in 1953 by George Cory and Douglass Cross with Bennett's first recording his version in 1962. Of course, others have covered it over the decades and that includes Japanese singers according to what I got when I placed the Japanese translation of the title "Omoide no San Francisco" (San Francisco Memories) into the YouTube engine. One such English-language cover was by The Tough Guy himself, Yujiro Ishihara（石原裕次郎）. The uploader states that Ishihara's version was recorded in 1974 and it can be found in his 5-CD "Ishihara Yujiro ~ Cover Song Shuu"（石原裕次郎 カバーソング集...Cover Song Collection）. Ishihara is no Bennett but he's got the timbre and gravitas in his vocals to perform a pretty decent cover.
Judy Ongg（ジュディ・オング）also provided her version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" on a TV show and along with her wonderfully smoky delivery of the tune which I would love to have caress my ears in the minutes before slumber, there are other reasons for my choice. One is that I finally get to see trumpet player Shin Kazuhara（数原晋）for the first time and the other is that Ongg's cover is done in Japanese, thanks to Rei Nakanishi's（なかにし礼）lyrics.
In the "Killing-two-birds-with-one-stone" department, I also found a San Francisco-themed kayo to include here. Titled "San Francisco no Hito" (San Francisco Woman), this was The Peanuts'（ザ・ピーナッツ）33rd single from October 1971 and was the final part of the "Hito" （女）trilogy of songs that Emi and Yumi Ito（伊藤エミ・ユミ）recorded following "Tokyo no Hito"（東京の女）and "Osaka no Hito"（大阪の女）in the previous year.
While "Osaka no Hito" took things into enka territory, "San Francisco no Hito" is more into happy-go-lucky pop kayo although the story is more melancholy as a woman gets summarily dumped on one of those San Francisco slopes. The same duo behind "Osaka no Hito", lyricist Jun Hashimoto（橋本淳）and composer Taiji Nakamura（中村泰士）, was also responsible for this one, and "San Francisco no Hito" was performed by The Peanuts at the 1971 Kohaku Utagassen at their 13th out of 16 appearances on the New Year's Eve special.
And no...The Peanuts' voicing of "Cisco, Cisco" wasn't probably not a premonition for a certain multinational technology conglomerate that rose up years later. To be honest, when I first heard those lyrics, my immediate thoughts went to a certain Starfleet captain-turned-religious emissary (yes, I know the spelling is different😒).
Finally to end things off, for those who have never heard of The Norman Luboff Choir, you can have a listen to another standard that coincidentally saw off the show in which that Starfleet captain had starred in. Wow, this was something...I never thought I could incorporate Tony Bennett, The Tough Guy, The Peanuts, "Star Trek" and J Utah into one article.