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About Mari Natsuki

Very few pop idols get to reinvent themselves in their late '40s, and ever fewer when they come from Japan. But Mari Natsuki (real name: Junko Nakajima) is a special case, one who has had two comebacks in her music career, along with a well-respected acting and performance career that continues to this day. She began as an actress in a 1971 in a show called "G-Man 75," but King Records hired her and put out her first single, the 1973 hit "Silk Stockings," a folk-pop song in the Carly Simon/James Taylor mode (later to be covered by a number of female singers, including Linda Yamamoto and Mari Hemni). A follow-up single was also popular, called "Barefoot Goddess," a pun on her first hit. Such was her success that in the space of two years, King Records had released four albums of originals (but with much overlap of songs) and immediately started also releasing compilations. Her 1974 release "Mari Natsuki Sings Big Hits" featured covers of nothing but Western pop tunes, including "Spinning Wheel," "Love Me Tender," and "Something." Soon after, Natsuki developed anemia from overwork and retired from the pop biz (the compilations continued to repackage her discography). Apart from a 1978 single "Under the Mango Tree" (and a hastily compiled tie-in album), Natsuki returned to acting. By her 1982 album "Mirror Ball," Natsuki wasn't on the pop radar, but devotees picked it up, only to find a matured, wiser woman. 1986's "Woman's Club" found even fewer listeners, but Natsuki was now creating a different aesthetic for herself, and one of her steady fans was Yasuharu Konishi, at the time beginning his group Pizzicato Five. Natsuki left music for nine years until the same Konishi, now an in-demand producer and songwriter brought her out of retirement for a series of e.p.s: "La Marie en Septembre" and "Gorilla" (both are collected on "13 Chansons"). Natsuki was now, a sexy, smoky voiced chanteuse, and Konishi backed her with a small jazz combo. Natsuki once again returned to the spotlight, and her one woman show (a representation of such was released as "Impressionists" in 1997) toured the world to much acclaim. She continues to act and do voice work, as well as small jazz club appearances. ~ Ted Mills

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