And why is he the greatest of all time?
When I was in high school, I decided to take a Japanese class because I was tired of taking the spanish elective for the 7th time in a row.. Needles to say, when I started my japanese class, I was terrible at it, learning japanese was a struggle for me. However one piece of advice I got was to listen to japanese music so I could get the pronounciation down. So I took that advice and began searching for japanese music that I’d might like to listen to, which was ALSO a struggle since most of the japanese music I got in my childhood was from crappy early 2000s anime openings and those were hit or miss. Finally after about a month of searching, I came across two musical artist that would change my taste in music for the rest of my life, Dreams Come True (known to japanese fans as dorikamu) and the legendary Tatsuro Yamashita.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Tatsuro Yamashita is the greatest musician in Japanese History. And one of the greatest musicians of all time PERIOD. Now you’re probably wondering, “Rocket Brown, who the hell is this Tatsuro guy I’ve never heard of him?” Tatsuro Yamashita ( or just Tats for short) is a Japanese singer-songwriter and record producer 43 years worth of experience under his belt. He’s also the person to thank for the ever popular Youtube sensation, Plastic Love sung by Mariya Takeuchi, but I’m getting ahead of myself. If you really want to understand why this man is so great we gotta start from the beginning.
Born in Ikebukuro in 1953, Tatsuro Yamashita fell in love with Western music at an early age. So much to the point he would go on to form his own band in his school years and released a cover album simply called “Add Some Music to Your Day”, and homage to the Beach Boy song of the same name. Later on in 1973, he would form another Indie Band called Sugar Babe, with musicians including Taeko Ohnuki and Kunio Muramatsu, and released their sole album Songs two years later. Unfortunately the band discontinued after their 1st album, but that didn’t stop o’l Tats as he signed to RCA and launched his own career, with release of the solo album Circus Town in 1976. That same year he teamed up with Eiichi Ohtaki, who was the producer of Sugar Babe, and brief Sugar Babe member Ginji Ito to release an album titled Niagara Triangle Vol. 1.
Despite the amount of music he was making he experienced little success with the kind of music he was creating. Running counter to a lot of the other rock bands of its day, in the mid-’70s he had experimented with influences others seemed to frown upon. And that’s not to say his music was bad, on the contrary, he was just too ahead of his time.
Let’s compare this 1977 song by famous enka singer Keiko Fuji: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50SuWsSUnIE
To this Tatsu jam that came out in 1978 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULyI9ewHt3I
See what I mean? Keiko’s song, while still really good, sounds old fashioned and archaic next to the Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Soul Train”-esque masterpiece known as Bomber. The problem lies more in the fact that his music was to “American” for the Japanese audiences and Japan wasn’t quite ready for a more westernized sound.
It wasn’t until 1980 when his song "Ride on Time" peaked at #3 on the Japanese charts, and the same-titled album topped the chart subsequently, AND a maxwell commercial that featured his hit single, that he got his big break. And the rest is history. Tats would go on to make 17 studio albums, 2 live albums, multiple compilations and over 40 singles. He did music for tv shows, commercials, and now to days, movies & video games. The dude is unstoppable, he’s a true artisan, crafting his music with the conviction and repetition of skill similar to a tradesman and accompanying it with a relaxed yet strong voice, one whose melody provokes the listener’s imagination in a powerful way.
Is you seriously haven't listened to this guy yet, you’re missing out. I would give you my favorite album recommendations, but that’s an EXTREMELY hard task since every single album contains a favorite song of mine. Instead Here are my Top 10 Tatsuro Yamashita Songs:
- Ride On Time - Ride on Time (1980)
- Bomber - GoAhead! (1978)
- Someday - Ride on Time (1980)
- Silent Screamer - Ride on Time (1980)
- Merry Go Round - Melodies (1983)
- Sparkle - For You (1982)
- Love Talkin - For You (1982)
- Kokiatsu girl - Melodies (1983)
- Magic Ways - Big Wave (1984)
- Funky Flushin' - Moonglow (1979)
No matter how you end up listening to the music, you’re gonna be in for a treat with each an every song. Some songs will make you think you’re listening to the Isley Bros, other songs will remind you of Bobby Caldwell, hell even the Beach Boys. But no matter what, your always listening to Tatsuro Yamashita.
...And that’s the idea.