Linda Yamamoto was a star of early J-pop, largely responsible for bringing sexy to the Japanese scene -- her exposed bellybutton generated a huge media buzz in the ‘70s. She dabbled in many areas of show business, such as film and modeling, and weathered long periods of relative obscurity, but never really went away, and staged several comebacks over her four-decade-plus career.
Yamamoto was born in 1951 in Fukuoka. Her father, an American soldier, died in the Korean war of 1950-1953, and Yamamoto was raised by her Japanese mother. The girl set her sights on the show biz early on, debuting as a fashion model at 11, and soon began her singing career as well, releasing the debut single "Komacchauna" in 1966. It was a million-seller, establishing Yamamoto as a prime pop star worthy of Kohaku Uta Gassen, the ultimate Japanese music TV show (this was the first of her five Kohaku appearances). Yamamoto released a barrage of singles in the following years, but didn't quit fashion modeling, which was a smart move -- she earned the nickname "The Japanese Twiggy" and even worked with real Twiggy. Her musical career, in the meantime, floundered until the early ‘70s, when she signed to Canyon Records and released the monster hit "Donimo Tomaranai" (1972), her biggest-selling release. The song was penned by Yuu Aku and Shunichi Tokora, who worked with Pink Lady, the Finger Five, and Momoe Yamaguchi.
More hits by the same songwriting duo followed in the mid-‘70s, including "Neraiuchi" (1973), used in the Ultraman Taro TV show and later in the video game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (2005). After a few more years, however, she was again all but forgotten, relegated to play small country pubs in the ‘80s. She tried albums instead of singles (her first full-length was delivered in 1987) and switched to chanson in 1989, but what really facilitated her comeback was the power of anime, namely, the Chibi Maruko-chan series, which aired a scene of the eponymous character performing a Yamamoto song in 1991. Her songs also suddenly became popular remix material; as a result, she was back in the spotlight in the early ‘90s, even returning to Kohaku Uta Gassen in 1991 after a 17-year break. During this new bout of activity she debuted overseas, playing in China in 1993; she appeared in the Hamlet rock opera alongside X-Japan members, and even did a photo book of nudes. Nevertheless, her popularity started to fade again, but she retained her presence on the J-pop scene, establishing a steady album release schedule in the 2000s, as well as scoring some big advertisement contracts with Asahi and Wanda coffee, and contributing songs to such anime series as Tenchi in Tokyo (1997) and Legendz (2005). In 2001, Yamamoto married for the first time, to a college professor seven years her senior. ~ Alexey Eremenko, Rovi
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