Chiyo Okumura

About Chiyo Okumura

Born in 1947, Chiyo Okumura was to become one of the leading pop stars and style icons of late-'60s Japan, and an important figure in the development of the "kayoukyoku" musical style that helped to provide the Japanese answer to contemporary Western pop music at that time. Okumura's first singing break came after passing an audition and performing the theme song for a TV commercial, with a contract with a major talent agency, and a Toshiba Records deal followed soon after. Her 1965 debut single, "Anata ga Inakutemo," with its B-side, "Watashi wo Aishite," a cover of Sylvie Vartan's "Car Tu T'en Vas," initiated comparisons with the French singer that would become a defining feature of her image, and "Gomen ne... Jiro" provided her with her first hit later that same year.
1967's "Hokkaido no Aoi Sora" (a cover of the Ventures' "Hokkaido Sky") cemented her position as a leading light of the new, more Westernized Japanese pop generation. However, it was not until 1969 that Okumura reached the most memorable period of her career, with the million-selling single "Koi no Dorei" going on to become her best-known song, initiating a trilogy of songs linked by the use of the word "koi" ("love") in the title (along with follow-up single "Koi Dorobou" and the following year's "Koi Kurui") . In recognition of her huge success, Okumura performed at Japanese national broadcaster NHK's annual New Year music show Kouhaku Uta Gassen, although only on the condition that she not perform "Koi no Dorei," thanks to its sultry, submisive, and sexually violent lyrics breaking the strait-laced TV station's broadcasting regulations. In 1971, Okumura had another huge hit with "Shuchaku Eki," composed by Okumura's future husband Keisuke Hama, which saw a shift away from the sex kitten image of her late-'60s period. Her marriage in 1974 saw her enter a hiatus, although she re-emerged in the '80s and continued to perform actively. The 1993 re-release of "Koi no Dorei" rode a '60s/'70s revivalist boom as younger Japanese listeners began to rediscover the music of their parents' generation. ~ Ian Martin

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