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, July 19, 2012

Masaaki Sakai -- Saraba, Koibito (さらば、恋人)

Masaaki Sakai(堺正章) has been a TV fixture for more than 40 years. He's been an actor, a singer, an emcee and an all-round entertainer. And in fact, I used to watch one of his shows late Saturday night on TBS, "Chuubo desu yo"チューボーですよ....It's A Kitchen!), in which he and a guest try cooking a recipe in the studio kitchen while three professional chefs do the same at their own restaurants in Tokyo (yep, a cooking show at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday...only in Japan). Sakai is basically the equivalent of a Regis Philbin or an Uncle Miltie (if you're that old to remember Milton Berle) on Japanese TV.

But back in the Group Sounds era of the 60s, he was a member of the Spiders until the band broke up in 1970. He quickly went into a solo singing career and his first single in 1971 turned out to be the one that he's probably the most well known for, "Saraba, Koibito" (Farewell, Lover). The lyrics by Osamu Kitayama(北山修)pretty much reflect the title: a feckless guy leaving the Dear Jane letter on the table while she's sleeping before taking off on his own. However, it's kinda hard to believe a guy with Sakai's nerdy voice being a love 'em-and-leave 'em type.

Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平) provided the music. And it's especially interesting to point this out since in the same year as this tune was released, he also helped launch Saori Minami's (南沙織) debut song, "Juu-nana Sai"17才....17 Years Old). In that blog entry on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I mentioned that Tsutsumi created the melody with inspiration from Lynn Anderson's country hit "Rose Garden". Tsutsumi did the same thing here, too, with Sakai's debut. There's definitely that stately string intro in "Saraba, Koibito"that was in Glen Campbell's "By The Time I Get To Phoenix". The other connection is that both Tsutsumi songs won Japan Music Awards: Minami got the Best Newcomer Award while Sakai got the Popularity Award. As I did with Minami and Anderson on the former's blog entry, I have done with Sakai and Campbell. Take a listen and compare.

Released in May 1971, it peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and ended up being the 10th-ranked song of the year. 

This last video has nothing to do with music, but to show how versatile Sakai has been over the decades. One of his nicknames is "Mister Kakushi Gei"(ミスターかくし芸....Mr. Hidden Talent). On New Year's Day, Fuji-TV broadcasts a 3 or 4-hour program called "Kakushi Gei Taikai"(かくし芸大会....The Hidden Talent Competition) in which just about every actor/singer/entertainer in Japanese show business has to show some sort of special ability that isn't his/her own. There is a reality show aspect to it as the poor entertainer is worn down to a nub as he/she has to learn something like tap dancing or tightrope walking within a few short weeks.

Sakai seems to be the overlord of this show and has usually been the final guy. This is the 2003 edition in which he showed his prowess as a trick billiard player.

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