This track was was written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura, this version was recorded by Kyu Sakamoto in 1963. It reached the top of the Billboard 100 chart in the U.S that year and sold 13 million copies internationally. The melody is extremely catchy and the song has a beautiful melancholy, wistful vibe about it. The Japanese name for the song is "Ue o muite arukō" which translates as "I walk looking up." Apparently it can be interpreted in three ways: as a man on his way to his execution, as someone trying to be optimistic despite life's trials, or as the story of an ended love affair
English language cover versions of this song were recorded in 1981 by a Taste Of Honey, a Disco/Soul group who also covered Smoky Robinson & The Miracles. Boy band 4 P.M also recorded a barbershop version in 1995. In both cases the singles were huge hits, both were about love, the song's orignal meaning had been lost slightly in translation. The lyrics written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura were mostly about being sad & alone, and looking up.
A Taste Of Honey
In the late 80's Slick Rick sang some of the English 'Sukiyami' lyrics on his famous hit with Doug E Fresh 'La Di Da Di':
Then I dilly, DALLY, I ran through the ALLEY
I bumped into this homegirl named SALLY from the VALLEY
This was a girl playing hard to get
So I said "What's wrong?" cause she looked upset
She said uh, "It's all because of you
I'm feeling sad and blue
You went away
and now my life is filled with rainy days
I love you so
How much you'll never know
Cause you took your love away from me."
Ricky D was straight singing A Touch Of Honey! He also sings some of the song on a track with Will smith 'So Fresh' that also features Biz Markie recorded in 1999. Big tune!
I've always found it interesting when rappers sing bits of other songs in their lyrics. It helps remind us where hip hop music is from, as rappers often sing bits from popular soul or rnb hits, or songs they knew from growing up. It also adds melody to a rap verse. It's a musical reference within a song. Rappers have also been known to sing entire songs, but that's another blog post.
The moral of the story is, beautiful melodies transcend musical genre, time and location. The Sukiyaki melody has been sung by everyone from Japanese pop bands to Spanish pop starlets to gold wearing rappers. It's mad to think that Slick Rick is in fact singing the melody of a 60 year old Japanese song over Hip-Hop beats.
The Faboulous Echoes in 1965.