Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hatsumi Shibata (1952-2010)

Hatsumi Shibata

April 11th, 1952 - March 28th, 2010

Yesterday, I discovered that singer Hatsumi Shibata died of a heart attack Saturday at her home in Shizuoka-ken. She was 57.

Remarkably, Shibata began her singing career as a child, performing for American servicemen at the age of 9. Born Hatsumi Hosoai (細合はつみ), she was raised in Tokyo by musically gifted parents who quickly spotted her talent as a vocalist; by 15 she had already begun recording music for television commercials.

The following year, under the stage name Hatsumi Kanna (はつみかんな), she released her first single, "Koi To Umi To Taiyō To", (恋と海と太陽と), a frenetic little number showcasing the singer's surprising strength for a 16 year-old girl.

During the early 70s she traveled to the U.S. in hopes of finding work in show business. But after limited touring, she returned to Japan and in 1974 released her first single as Hatsumi Shibata, the funky, forlorn ballad "Aikagi" (合鍵), or "duplicate key". Shortly thereafter, Shibata seized the opportunity to open for both Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. during the pair's performances in Tokyo.

Despite a rather impressive resume for someone her age, it was ultimately the 1977 hit "My Luxury Night" (マイ・ラグジュアリー・ナイト) — penned by brother and sister duo Takao and Etsuko Kisugi — which solidified Shibata's success as an entertainer, granting her a coveted spot on NHK's New Year's Eve special Kōhaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦).

However, to me, the singer's most interesting material is to be found in her earlier collaborations with composer and pianist Yuji Ōno (大野雄二), that of which is both esteemed and desired by small, devoted circles of mainly Japanese record collectors.

So then, to celebrate the jazzier side of Shibata's oeuvre, consider this Ōno-penned original from the album Singer Lady (シンガーレディ), produced by Ōno as well.

Hatsumi Shibata - Mōichido Kikasete (1975)
しばたはつみ - もう一度聞かせて

Of course, Shibata's role in the gaudy theatrics typical of the late 70s variety show circuit mustn't be overlooked. This gem of a live performance, "I Love Paris", is taken from Sound In "S", a show which Shibata co-hosted with Ayumi Ishida (石田あゆみ) and Yuji Ōno as part of Ōno's trio.

The elaborate musical number features Shibata alongside Yuzuru Sera (世良譲) on piano, as well as idol singers Machiko Watanabe (渡辺真知子) and Yukari Itō (伊東ゆかり).

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