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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Linda Yamamoto

Pop star Linda Yamamoto, age 57, is famous not only for her unique musical and fashion styles but also for her rollercoaster career. While a few stars have managed one — or perhaps two — brilliant comebacks, Yamamoto has completely reinvented herself three times. Although she was a million album-selling hit-maker both as a teenager and an adult, for a 14-year stretch she was mostly booked in small bars. But even when show business wanted to quit her, she kept on performing with the same gusto, whether it was for 10 guys or a national audience. Today her hardcore fans include not only those who remember her as a 15-year-old idol but also those who went night-clubbing in the 1990s, when DJs played her house-music-style medleys during what became known in clubs as "Linda Time."

News photo

If you want to be big, always be prepared to be small. Even when I was 15, I understood that Japanese show business was tough because I saw huge stars disappear from one day to another like they had died. I knew the same thing would happen to me — it was just a matter of time when.

Being an entertainer is just work. Singing is just like any other job, such as working in an office or cooking. But in my job, I get energy from singing, which I am happy to transfer and amplify back to other people.

The Japanese mass media is lightweight. It doesn't matter what journalists say, because their words don't carry much weight. They just write to sell their paper. A select few are different, and I appreciate them.

Real friends guide you when you are lost. I have had the same friends for a long time — and we are the same whether we ride in limos or on our bicycles.

My life is nothing more than a series of lucky encounters. In 1966, when I was 15 years old and had already been modeling for years, I was introduced to Minoru Endo, a famous composer. He asked me if I had a boyfriend or not, and I replied, "Komacchau na! (Oops, I'm in trouble!)." He said even before he got home that night, he already had a funny song by that title done. It became a million-album-seller that started my singing career.

Marriage is a chance to mature. Timing is important — for me it all fell into place when I was 50.

If you are loved unconditionally, you can survive any hardship. My mother always protected and loved me, and that sense of security is the base of my power. It also helps that both of us are Buddhist and have a mentor in our lives.

There's no need to give birth yourself in order to be a mother. My husband lost his wife seven years before we met, so their two children are now my family. I also have many young starlets who come to me for advice, so I am sort of Mom to many young people.

Always do your best, whether you know you are being watched or not. I was working with a group of singers at Expo '70, the World's Fair held in Osaka. It was raining very hard and the organizers worried that nobody would come to our tent in such weather, so they told us to go around with a mic to advertise our show. I was in a cart with a small roof, but it was pouring so hard that I was soaking wet instantly. I still kept inviting people to our tent like I was having a great time. I could not gather many people, but a year later I got a call from the record label Pony Canyon in Tokyo. It turned out that some executives were throwing around names of singers who could be made into stars, and two guys said they had just the right girl: Me! They had seen me back at the Expo out in the storm and decided to sign me.

If you love what you do, you can't quit just because you are not making it big. After 1977, I went from 24/7 TV appearances and revue shows at Akasaka's Crystal Room down to small venues in the countryside. Ultimately I was singing at village bars in the middle of rice paddies, with a handwritten sign outside announcing: "Linda Yamamoto, Live Tonight." I would cry a little then do my show, just as I would at a bigger place — except in those places I would have to dodge the hands of tipsy guys who wanted to cop a feel. But I loved singing, so just to have an audience was enough, even if I hoped one day I could sing at a nicer joint. Great breaks can come anytime and from the most unexpected corners. In 1991, two strange, totally unrelated things put me back into the public eye. Neither was my doing: First, in the cartoon series "Chibi Maruko-chan," my video was featured. Then a young DJ mixed my songs and ignited a dance fever that became known as "Linda Time" on the Roppongi club circuit. He asked me to perform live with him at Club Citta in Kawasaki City. The club was packed with kids, all jumping up in unison as I went on stage. I was flabbergasted. They knew all the lyrics! The sound was so huge that the neighbors thought an earthquake had hit Kawasaki and called the national weather service asking why it was not reported on TV!

Don't compare yourself with others, only with yourself. Check how you were the day before to see if you have matured, and try to be better tomorrow than today — in your own way.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Out & About." Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/

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