Friday, March 18, 2011

I look up, so my tears won't fall

Sukiyaki (song)
"Ue wo Muite Arukō" (上を向いて歩こう?, literally "I look up as I walk") is a Japanese-language song that was performed by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, and written by lyricist Rokusuke Ei and composer Hachidai Nakamura. It is best known under the alternative title "Sukiyaki" in English-speaking parts of the world. The song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States in 1963, and was the only Japanese-language song to do so. In total it sold over 13 million copies internationally. The original Kyu Sakamoto recording also went to number eighteen on the R&B chart. In addition, the single spent five weeks at number one on the Middle-Road charts. The recording was originally released in Japan by Toshiba in 1961. It topped the Popular Music Selling Record chart in the Japanese magazine Music Life for three months, and was ranked as the number one song of 1961 in Japan.

Well-known English-language cover versions include a 1981 cover under the title "Sukiyaki" by A Taste of Honey and a 1995 cover by 4 P.M.. There is also an English language version with altogether different lyrics by Jewel Akens under the title "My First Lonely Night" recorded much earlier in 1966. There are many other language versions of the song as well.

The lyrics tell the story of a man who looks up and whistles while he is walking so that his tears won't fall. The verses of the song describe his memories and feelings. The English-language lyrics of the version recorded by A Taste of Honey are not a translation of the original Japanese lyrics but a completely different set of lyrics set to the same basic melody.

The title Sukiyaki, a Japanese steamboat dish, has nothing to do with the lyrics or the meaning of the song; the word served the purpose only because it was short, catchy, recognizably Japanese, and more familiar to most English speakers. A Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."

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