Friday, July 03, 2009

'Sayonara' 60s Music: American/Japanese Influence, Marlon Brando, James Mitchener, Irving Berlin, Miyoshi Umeki, Tracy Huang

J-Pop or Japanese popular music reminds me of two songs significantly Japanese, but neither is J-Pop. One of these songs became popular because of Marlon Brando's encounter with Miyoshi Umeki and Hollywood's exotica about everything eastern.
Sayonara the movie (1957), from the book by James Mitchener and Sayonara the song by famous lyricist, Irving Berlin, encompassed everything that was stereo-typical about the Japanese in the eyes of the American. "Sayonara, Japanese goodbye/Whisper sayonara, but you mustn't cry/No more we stop to see pretty cherry blossom/No more we 'neath the trees, looking at the sky..."
But the public absorbed the song like tears to tissue paper and it became a hit in Singapore in the late 50s and lingering beyond the 60s. And Brando's line, "Well, that's the cutest thing I ever saw honey..." after listening to the song, confirmed America's ideas about Eastern people and culture.
The original version by Miiko Ta'aka, is from the soundtrack of the film, while the one played on radio was by Miyoshi Umeki. Her 45 rpm vinyl, Sayonara - Japanese Farewell Song - has Be Sweet Tonight on its flipside (Mercury 71216). Both versions are great to listen to.
It is still a popular song and there were numerous covers done in Asia. Singapore pop band, The Quests, did an instrumental version in the 60s and in the 70s, Tracy Huang our beautiful, sophisticated recording artiste did a cover too. It can be found on UTube. The book by JM? Good read.
Original article: Andy Lim Collection.

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