Name in Japanese: 山口 百恵, ヤマグチ モモエ, やまぐち ももえ
"Living legend" is a term loosely thrown around; often an exaggeration or an indication only that somebody once did something spectacular. However to call Momoe Yamaguchi a living legend is in fact a huge understatement. She had a relatively short but incredibly successful career as a singer and actress, and then retired from show business while still wildly popular. Since retiring, she stays away from the media and lives an understated yet elegant life with her husband and children....read more
"Living legend" is a term loosely thrown around; often an exaggeration or an indication only that somebody once did something spectacular. However to call Momoe Yamaguchi a living legend is in fact a huge understatement. She had a relatively short but incredibly successful career as a singer and actress, and then retired from show business while still wildly popular. Since retiring, she stays away from the media and lives an understated yet elegant life with her husband and children. Her character, her career, her life, are seen by many as more than great, as something near perfection, and as a result she has been called "the eternal idol". Momoe Yamaguchi was born in Tokyo on January 17, 1959, and raised in the Yokosuka area near a large US Navy base. She was born out of wedlock, and her father abandoned her and her mother early on. In fact Yamaguchi is her mother's family name. Her mother brought her and her younger sister Toshie up as a single parent. On top of this, her mother was chronically ill, and as a result the family struggled to get by financially. An often told story is that Momoe delivered newspapers as a child to earn enough money to buy a desk. After seeing the star search television show Star Tanjo, Momoe decided to give it a try herself. She made it onto the show at age 13, placing second. The network that produced Star Tanjo, Nippon Television, teamed with the powerful production house Hori Production to find and promote new stars brought to light by the show. Initially Momoe was teamed with two other young newcomers, Masaki Mori and Junko Sakurada, in a group called Hana No Chusan Trio (Three Flowers Trio). Of the three, Yamaguch was considered by most as the least likely to succeed. Mori was thought to have the bigger and better voice, and Kakurada had a more outgoing, bubbly personality. It was also pointed out that Yamaguchi's legs were thick and without classic curve, and that her personality tended to be on the gloomy side. When the three made their first solo releases, Yamaguchi's sold the least. Her debut single in 1973, "Toshigoro (Adolescence)" sold a decent but not remarkable 70,000 copies. Her second single, "Aoi Kaijtsu (Green Fruit)" was a huge hit. Part of what made it a success were its suggestive lyrics, which said something like "if you want me, you can do anything you want to me, and I won't care if it becomes gossip". This from a sweet and innocent looking youngster who had showed up to her first recording session in her sailor suit school uniform. Her third single "Hito Natsu No Taiken (One Summer's Experience")", also had suggestive lyrics, roughly "I will give you a girl's most important thing... it's okay if you make me cry, it is just once... and then throw me away". Later in her career she would try to distance herself from these songs, and say that they were not from her heart. However, she was able to build on the popularity gain from these racy songs by then releasing songs that portrayed a strong woman overcoming being used and abused, and now standing up boldly for herself. These songs were called "tsuppari (tough, defiant)" and written by lyricist Yoko Agi and her composer husband Ryodo Usaki. Yamaguchi's management company and record label did not initially support this direction, but she insisted on it and won out. To appease her record label, Yamaguchi also recorded a number of sentimental ballads, which also were very popular. In 1974 she began making movies, starting with Izu No Odoriko (Dancer of Izu). Her co-star in the film was the 22-year old Tomokazu Miura. The two made eleven movies together, mostly predictable love stories, and in real life also became a couple. The media loved them together and took to calling them the "golden combination". The age difference between the two did not bring negative comment, and some fans felt that Miura was a comforting father figure to her, as well as her perfect boyfriend. In 1978 the popular singing trio the Candies announced that they would retire from the entertainment business, and return to being "ordinary girls again". This seemed to plant a thought with Yamaguchi, who was tiring of the stress of being pushed and pulled through idol stardom. In 1980 she announced her plans to marry Tomokazu Miura, to leave show business, and dedicate herself to her husband and family. While perhaps seen now as old fashioned, the self-sacrificing young woman's move was at the time seen as an incredibly romantic exit. Her farewell single "Watashi Wa Onna (I Am a Woman)" spoke of her desire to love "with both hands", touched many hearts, and rocketed to number one. Her husband settled into being a mid-level actor. Beyond writing her autobiography Aoi Toki (Green Time) in 1980, she never looked back, and never was tempted back into the show business spotlight. While she attempts to live a private life, her every public appearance is closely scrutinized. She is looked upon as the ideal housewife, and when spotted by the media every detail of her appearance is closely monitored. She has two sons, who she also tries to keep away from paparazzi. When they first went to school however, coverage of their entering the grounds was The Lead story in virtually every media. The career of Momoe Yamaguchi is often compared to that of Seiko Matsuda, who made her debut the year Yamaguchi retired. While both started with a cute and innocent girl-next-door image, Matsuda went on to scandalize the entertainment world by defying her management company and starting her own, having multiple marriages and allegedly countless affairs, dressing sexily and speaking boldly. Yamaguchi demurely gave up superstardom for the man she loved, while Matsuda's image is much more that of a driven, never-say-die career woman. Where Matsuda carries on, despite being well past her peak popularity, Yamaguchi left show business while still at the zenith of her career.collapse
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Momoe Yamaguchi - Pearl Colour ni Yurete
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