Yōko Nagayama (長山洋子 Nagayama Yōko; born January 13, 1968) is a Japanese enka singer, former J-pop singer, and actress.
Nagayama was born in Tokyo. At the age of four, she began attending min'yo group singing lessons with her father. Although she originally went because she enjoyed the attention from her father's classmates, she soon began studying and performing min'yo together with her father. When she was ten, she started playing shamisen. Her father gave her a shamisen that she still uses today.
Nagayama continued singing and performing through her junior high school years. Her plan was to become a professional enka singer after finishing junior high school. However, when she was sixteen, her handlers told her and her parents that she was too young to sing enka. Despite her father's wishes, she then decided to become a J-pop idol singer.
Her debut song was Haru wa SA-RA SA-RA (春はSA-RA SA-RA), released in 1984. It was not well received, nor were her releases over the next two years. However, in 1986, Nagayama had her first big hit with a cover version of British girl group Bananarama's dance-pop take on Shocking Blue's Venus. Her next song, You're My Love, was also popular. Five of her songs (Venus, You're My Love, Kanashiki Koibitotachi, Heart ni Hi wo Tsukete, and Hangyaku no Hero) were all Oricon top 10 hits.
During this time, Nagayama also performed in various dramas, such as the jidaigeki Sanbiki gi Kiru, Minipato yori Ai wo Komete, and Yūwaku.
In 1993, she started a second career as an enka singer. She received three prizes for her first enka song Higurashi (蜩). Suterarete (捨てられて) also became famous.
Nagayama continues to play the shamisen in many of her songs. Notable songs with shamisen parts are Jonkara Onnabushi (じょんから女節) and Usoda to Itte (噓だといって), the latter in which has been posted to YouTube under the title "DEATH BY SHAMISEN".
She regularly presents enka programmes on Japanese TV. Nagayama has had at least one song appear on the NHK program Minna no Uta. In 1993, she made her first appearance on the NHK New Year's Eve spectacular Kōhaku Uta Gassen. Since 1995, she has performed at "Kōhaku" every year.
April 6, 2009 she announced on her blog that she has married American entrepreneur Mark Smith.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license