From Annie Laurie to Lady Madonna: A Century of Cover Songs in Japan
Volume! - La revue des musiques populaires
he foreign language cover record in Japan seems to have started (as a popular phenomenon) with Futamura Teiichi's version of "My Blue Heaven" in 1928. Stretching the definition, Western songs with new lyrics were certainly being sung in the cutting edge theaters of Tokyo by the late teens, and Western folk and popular melodies were used as early as the 1880s in Japanese primary school textbooks. By the early 1970s, however, the cover record ceased to exist as a significant commercial form,
... mmercial form, having been replaced by indigenously created, western-style popular music. In this article I briefly survey the era of the cover version in Japan -a period of slightly less than a century, all told -but focus specifically on cover records of the pre-war and post-war eras. In current popular music research, lyrics somewhat justifiably receive limited attention, however in the case of cover versions, I believe we can profit from examining the ways in which approaches to lyric translation change over time. In the present study I focus on these approaches to lyric translation. From the field of translation studies I borrow the concepts of domesticating and foreignizing translations (the former renders the text in familiar terms for the target audience, the latter emphasizes fidelity to the original language) to contrast ways that Western culture is represented and received in pre-war and post-war Japan. I connect the dramatic post-war cultural shift in Japan with the differences in cover records of the two periods, and suggest some possible reasons for the genre's ultimate demise as a widely popular form.