This week in 1963, Kyu Sakamoto‘s poignant Japanese-language ballad “Sukiyaki” is the #1 song on the C-FUNtastic Fifty for the second week in a row!
The improbable success story of this song starts with my dear friend, the late Pat O’Day. Here’s the story Pat told on my final CISL show back in 2017:
“I had received a phone call from a young DJ in Monterey, Californa, who had called Bobby Mitchell and the guys at KYA/San Francisco, begging them to play the song because he had played it on his little station in Monterey and he had people jamming the phone lines to hear it!
And the guys in San Francisco wouldn’t play it, so he called me in Seattle, and he said ‘If you put that record on, you’re gonna be amazed at what will happen.’ So I said ‘Kyu Sakamoto and Sukiyaki… you gotta be kidding!’ but I did. We put it on the Battle Of The New Sounds on KJR, and bingo! It was instant, and soon I’m calling you, and saying ‘Red, you’re not gonna believe it, but put that on and watch what happens!'”
“Sukiyaki” went on to sell 13 million copies worldwide. The original Japanese title, “Ue o Muite Aruk?” means “I Look Up as I Walk”. Tragically, Kyu Sakamoto died in a 1985 plane crash in Japan. He was only 43.
As my friend Bruce Allen pointed out before we played the song during that last CISL show, the melody is what makes you love the song. You may not be able to sing along in Japanese, but you can’t stop whistling the “hook” of one of my all-time favourites. Here’s the #1 song on this day in 1963, “Sukiyaki”!