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Sunday, September 21, 2014

MY ALL-TIME TOP TEN SONGS

When I woke up this morning I wondered what were my top ten songs.  While I don't have a prepared list and a year from now I will adjust this posting, for now, here goes.  I pondered about having this in three parts, but, it's Sunday, and someone out there might have ten hours or more to spare.  To begin with,  I have a rather eclectic set of genres, which I indicated earlier this month:

  • Baroque (1600-1750)
  • Broadway shows
  • Popular music of the early '50's
  • Post World War II Japanese music with a Hawaii connection
While one's favorite song is usually linked to some past memory, let me begin with compilations of what others consider as the very best:
So sifting through the above  plus what's in my memory, here are my Top Ten:
  • #10  While the baroque period of classical music is dominated by Johann Sebastian Bach, my top song of this era is by another Johann, Pachelbel, with his Canon in D.  Click on it to spend an hour of your Sunday afternoon with Pachelbel.
  • #9  Tommy Dorsey's I'm Getting Sentimental Over You is haunting and meaningful, but, I don't know why.  The song was recorded about 80 years ago, and Frank Sinatra sang this song when with Dorsey, but it is Tommy's trombone that makes this rendition memorable.


  • #6  The Vietnam War was beginning, so to avoid the draft I joined the heralded 442 Regimental Combat Team Army Reserve, and in 1963 entered basic training, without doubt the most physically difficult 16 weeks of my life (I volunteered for advanced infantry training).  The Chiffons had two hits during my ordeal, One Fine Day and He's So Fine .  One remembers difficult periods.  The songs reminded me that I was A-Okay.  Interestingly enough, in 1971 the corporation that published these songs sued George Harrison and his hit, My Sweet Lord, for plagiarizing the second one.  The solution?  Harrison bought the company for $587,000 and is on record as being guilty of subconscious plagiarism.
  • #5  Freddie Aguilar's Anak is an interesting entry into my list of favorites.  Aguilar left home in the Philippines without completing school.  After five years of gambling and worse, he wrote Anak (this is the modern version with London electropop band Ooberfuse) forty years ago as a song of remorse and apology to his parents.  It is the best selling Filipino song in history.  In my travels through the Orient in the eighties and nineties there was always a group from the Philippines entertaining in the bar.  I many times asked them to sing this song, and I immediately became their friend.  I now and then sing Anak  (English version) in a karaoke bar...in Filipino.  My older brother once recorded my doing this and put it on his Christmas CD for gifts.  If you have one of those, burn it immediately.  But Freddie is Freddie, and last year, at the age of 60, converted to Islam to marry his 16 year-old girlfriend.  He is now known as Abdul Farid.
  • #4  Honolulu City Lights by Keola and Kapono Beamer was Pearl's favorite and is the view I have had now for 32 years at night, until my apartment sells, perhaps two weeks from now.  At one time the color was blue (mercury vapor lamps),  now orange (sodium vapor), but still ethereally relaxing.
  • #3  Ezio Pinza's broadway version of Some Enchanted Evening has given me hope since my youth.  Of course, South Pacific, the movie, is my all-time favorite, for it was filmed in my backyard...literally.  Here are Pearl and Pepper at the Slippery Falls on Kauai where we lived.  Note the resemblance between Pearl and France Nuyen.
  • #2  Ghost Riders in the Sky by Vaughn Monroe is just a fill-in for now.  The next time I adjust this list, something else might be here.  For example, there was a song from China that became popular in Japan soon after World War II, but I can't remember the title.  It would be in this slot for a very special reason I'll explain when I find it. However, for now, Monroe's recording of this cowboy song in 1949 is here.  Since then there have been hundreds of other versions. Why #2?  At virtually every sunset, this song returns to my mind.  Something fearful, anticipatory...
#1  Wakare No Isochidori is the only song of this genre that was first popular in Hawaii, then gained fame in Japan.  The singer here is Sparky Iwamoto, from Club Nisei.  The composer was Francis Zanami, and he either unfortunately died of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of 44, or at the age of 34 from kidney failure.  The latter seems more probable.  He was the leader of the Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra.  He is third from the right in the top row below, with then Doris Taketa to the extreme right:


Four years ago I reported on this song while I was traveling through Japan.  I noticed now that all the links of the song to You Tube have been deleted because of copyright infringements.  According to Rev. Hoshu Matsubayashi:

One of the eight kinds of suffering in Buddhist teaching is: "separation from a loved one." The sentiment of this suffering was expressed in a Japanese popular song, "Wakare no Isochidori (Departure of Beach Plovers)." The song is about separation from a loved one in Hawaii. A line from the song is "Although I know the meeting is the beginning of the separation, the memory remains cherished in my heart..."

I did not know the title had to do with beach plovers.  Anyway, if you did not earlier click to hear Wakare No Isochidori, you can do it now.  It is a sad song, evoking a long journey, homesickness and hope.  It still brings tears to my eyes, and I don't know why.

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