Miss Mieko Hirota
“Listen – Mieko Hirota – On a Sorrowful Day – MP3″
The end of the week is nigh, and I’m trying to decide if I’m too tired to enjoy the weekend. The forecast being what it is, that may be a moot point, i.e. the enjoyment may be restricted to the indoors, perhaps perched upon the settee, cool drink in hand, catching up on a backlog of movies (nothing wrong with that).
Today I bring you something unusual that I happened upon completely at random some time ago. Following the second to last Asbury Park 45 Sessions the mighty DJ Bluewater laid down Marva Whitney’s slamming (and oft sampled) ‘Unwind Yourself’, and I was driven (once again) to see if I could find myself a copy to add to the crates. Though I was unable to track down a copy of Marva’s 45, I did happen upon a cover of the song by a Japanese singer named Mieko Hirota.
What I found surprising about this record was not that it was Japanese funk, since our friends in the East have demonstrated a taste for American funk and soul, but rather that it was a contemporary cover, i.e. released in 1969.
While this version of the song doesn’t (remotely) have the JB engineered kick of the OG, it is pretty groovy in a soulful go go internationale stylee. I set out to track down some info on Ms. Hirota, known as Mico in her home country where she was a major singing star.
The most interesting thing I discovered is that Hirota apparently recorded the first version of ‘Sunny’ in 1966, one of about a half dozen versions (including one by vibist Dave Pike) that preceded the huge hit by the song’s composer Bobby Hebb. Hebb had recorded a demo version of the song, which made an impression on a number of artists, including Mieko Hirota who recorded and released her version (a hit in Japan) prior to Hebb’s version being released on Philips in the US.
Hirota’s version of ‘Unwind Yourself’ – for some reason retitled ‘On a Sorrowful Day’ rolls along at a brisk pace with a nice horn chart (with just a hint of the baritone sax figure from Marva Whitney’s OG) and some cool guitar. As I said before, it can’t really compare to the power of the original, but it is an interesting window into the international reach of the James Brown sound.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Monday.
NOTE: This probably won’t mean anything to anyone more than a few years younger than I am, but Hirota also sang the theme to the cartoon ‘Kimba the White Lion’, a major part of the Japanimation of my childhood (along with Gigantor and Astro Boy)