Song Of The Day: “Ue No Muite Arukou”

Unlike most Americans, I did not grow up on a steady diet of American TV. Don’t get me wrong: I saw some American TV, but sporadically and in bits and pieces. Instead of growing up on (insert your favorite childhood TV show or personality here), I grew up on the Drifters, Kamen Raida, Tensai Bakabon, and Pink Lady (yes, that Pink Lady–they were very poorly served by NBC and that Jeff thingy, whatever he was–but in their natural habitat, they were great).

While Kyu Sakamoto had his biggest hit right about the time I was born, he was still really big when I was a teen, and his song “Ue No Muite Arukou” was still being played everywhere. (Don’t be put off by the title of the song: You know it. Yes, you do.) Here he is singing it on Japanese TV, circa 1961.

Some British record producer heard this song on a trip to Japan in 1963, and decided to bring it back to the UK. However, he thought that the Japanese title was strange, so he changed the name of the song to the only Japanese word most Brits and Americans knew at the time, “Sukiyaki”.  The song was released in the UK and the US, and went to No. 1 like a bullet, selling over 13 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular singles ever produced.

The song has nothing to do with sukiyaki, however.

A very rough translation of the lyrics in English goes something like this:

I will walk with my eyes lifted up,
So that my tears won’t fall.
A spring day to remember.
It’s a lonely night.

I will walk with my eyes lifted up,
Counting the dim stars.
A summer day to remember.
It’s a lonely night.

Happiness is above the clouds.
Happiness is above the sky.

I will walk with my eyes lifted up,
So that my tears won’t fall.
I walk while crying.
It’s a lonely night.

An autumn day to remember.
It’s a lonely night.
Sadness is in the shadow of the stars.
Sadness is in the shadow of the moon.
I will walk with my eyes lifted up,
So that my tears won’t fall.
I walk while crying.
It’s a lonely night.
It’s a lonely night.

“Sukiyaki” was not his only hit, but most of his other songs were not all that accessible to international audiences.

Sakamoto died with 519 other people in the crash of a JAL 747 in 1985. He was 43 years old.

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