We just learned of the death of Rokusuke Ei.
While you might not recognize his name, you probably know the song he co-wrote: “Sukiyaki,” the only Japanese language hit ever to reach number-one in the U.S.
The song was performed by Kyu Sakamoto.
One of the most unlikely number-one hits of the ’60s, the song carried a fascinating backstory most Americans were unaware of.
Its Japanese title “Ue o Muite Aruko” — which translates as: “I Look Up as I Walk” — doesn’t hint at anything dramatic. But Ei wrote the lyrics as a metaphor for the continued U.S. military presence in Japan almost 20 years after World War Two ended.
Rokusuke Ei died July 7th at 83 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. (BBC)
- The U.S. and Japan were just building a positive relationship when “Sukiyaki” was recorded.
- Ei wrote the lyrics after attending a student demonstration protesting against the presence of U.S. troops in Japan.
- The song was revived — with entirely new lyrics having nothing to do with Ei’s — by A Taste of Honey in 1981.