When a journalist sang:
Burton Crane, the first successful American singer in Japan.

International Association for the Study of Popular Music:
Practising Popular Music
12th Biennial IASPM International Conference, July 3-7, 2003,
Montreal, Canada


When a journalist sang:
Burton Crane, the first successful American singer in Japan.

YAMADA, Harumichi

Burton Crane, 1901-1963, was a well-known reporter for the New York Times. He was a correspondent in Tokyo during the occupation, and also was an influencial financial columnist in 1950s. His career as a singer, however, has not been well known outside Japan.

Crane was the second recorded Western performer who sang in Japanese. He worked in Tokyo first for eleven years from 1925 to 1936 as a reporter for the Japan Advertiser, and then for five years as a correspondent for the New York Times from 1945 to 1950. During his time in pre-war Tokyo, he recorded 30 songs. Some of those songs, recorded during the period from 1931 to 1934, became smash hits, promoting the American style 'jazz' songs of the time. His success encouraged Japanese record companies to invite second generation Japanese-American (Nisei) singers to the Japanese market.

Most of his recordings were popular American songs with comic Japanese lyrics written by Crane himself. His first few songs were hits as novelties, but his serious recordings failed to achieve anything approaching the same level of popularity.

Crane returned to the U.S. in 1936. American style music lost popularity in the storm of growing militarism in pre-war Japan of late 1930s, and Crane's songs fell into oblivion. Once he returned to the States, Crane never referred to his successful Japanese singing career in his writings. His reasons for this neglect are unknown.

山田晴通(2008):バートン・クレーン補遺(1) ―生い立ち,最初の日本滞在(1926-1936),帰国から日米開戦前まで―

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