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.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Sonny Chiba -- Taiyo mo Waratteiru(太陽も笑っている)


I only discovered the news via Mixi in the morning but sadly, martial arts action star Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba(千葉真一)passed away earlier today at the age of 82 due to COVID-19.

Born Sadaho Maeda(前田禎穂)in 1948 in Fukuoka, when he was around 4 years old, his family moved to the city of Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture. To be honest, although I never saw any of his action flicks, the name of Sonny Chiba was well known to me just from reputation, and I think that I probably saw more of him on Japanese television as the occasional guest. I did see one performance of his on the big screen and the movie was Quentin Tarentino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" in which he played the master swordsmith Hanzo Hattori.


Years ago, Chiba had also starred in the 1968-1973 Japanese detective drama "Key Hunter"(キーハンター)with Tetsuro Tanba(丹波哲郎)and Yoko Nogiwa(野際陽子). Just by chance, former contributor to "Kayo Kyoku Plus" JTM and I were talking about the show a few days ago. Interestingly enough, considering this cast who played characters with their own special sets of skills, Chiba had the relatively mundane role of being a former newspaper reporter recruited onto the team (although in a future opening credit scene, he was performing some acrobatic hand-to-hand combat). Incidentally, Chiba and Nogiwa had gotten married in 1973, leading to a 21-year marriage with Nogiwa herself passing away a few years ago at the age of 81.

As would be the case for any young kakkoii actor at the time, the recording booth would come beckoning for Chiba, and he indeed put out a little over 15 singles between 1963 and 1985. In 1966, the star released "Taiyo mo Waratteiru" (The Sun Is Also Smiling). Written by Masao Nakayama(中山正男)and composed by Minoru Endo(遠藤実), Chiba has a light but still smoky voice for this song which kinda straddles the line between regular kayo and the bar territory-friendly Mood Kayo. Looking at the cover for the 45", he looks like he could be ambling among the tiny nomiya offering to sing his songs like a balladeer instead of flipping and smashing bad guys.

Condolences to Chiba's family, friends and fans on this news.

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