Shinji Tanimura Tribute: He is the “Rolling Thunder”

Dec 1, 2023 | Entertainment

On October 8, 2023, the singer Shinji Tanimura, who had long supported and developed Japanese pops music, passed away at the age of 74. No other song in the J-POP would have been loved as long as his. We would like to look back at some of his best masterpieces along with his history.

“Alice” Wonderland

In 1971, Shinji Tanimura formed the three-piece band “The Alice” with Takao Horiuchi and Toru Yazawa. This band had a unique formation at the time in which Tanimura and Horiuchi played guitars and vocals, and Yazawa played the drum, and they established a new music company “Young Japan” with Ken Hosokawa at the same time their band formed.

However, every event organized by this company had failed. First, one big failure of the U.S. concert tour which had been held already by their other bands had owed them a lot of debt. In addition, Alice was still not well known, so even when they played live shows, they could not attract as many people as they would have liked.

However, they did not give up and kept playing these shows. He said that they played them more than 300 times a year. Their approach was very unique at the time, because the general business model of selling records in Japan was for entertainment production companies to create their owned singers’ recognition by appearing them in music programs on television.

The Alice became steadily more popular through these live performances and radio DJs, finally producing a hit song in 1975, which was “Let Me Alone”(Ima-wa-mo-Dare-Mo in Japanese). This song was a cover one released by Woody-Woo in 1969, arranged in Folk-Rock style by Yazawa.

Later on, they produced many hit songs one after another such as “Rolling Thunder in Winter”(Furu-no-Inazuma), “Johnny’s Lullaby”(Jonny-no-Komoriuta), and “Champion”, and in 1978, they successfully held a three-day concert at the Nippon Budokan, which put them at the top of Japanese new music at that time.

Alice Budokan Live '78

Alice Budokan Live '78

Media Type: DVD
Label/Distributor: Universal Music
Availability: CDJapan(Proxy Shopping Search)

Alice Boosting the Japanese New Music

Alice’s biggest sales single is “Champion” launched in 1978. This song has one story about an old professional boxing champion, who fights a young challenger and is defeated. Tanimura had said that this champion was modeled on a real person. This song was so unique and epoch-making for them because they had almost created love songs.

Recently in fact, it is said that the time, when Alice climbed the “Champion” of the Japanese new music with their song “Champion”, was a major turning point of Japanese music history. This point is that the decline of the Japanese Kayo-music(old pops) and the boosting of the Japanese new music occurred at the same time.

This phenomenon triggered the birth of a new music genre, which is called “City-POP” and is currently recognized again as a new sound value all over the world. In other words, it would be not too much to say that Alice was the most strongest catalyst for new Japanese pop music.

Alice Great 50

Alice Great 50

Media Type: CD(2 Discs)
Label/Distributor: Universal Music
Availability: CD Japan

Shinji Tanimura Single Collection

In a sense, He is The Highest Valuable Singer in Japan

In Japan, in addition to live performances and concerts, there are a lot of music events called “Dinner Shows”. Audiences have to pay several times money more for this event than they would for others. This is due to not only with dinner but also the close proximity to the singers. If Britney Spears or Michael Jackson came up to your table and talked to you with a smile, how would you be not excited? Some of them might be likely to pay any amount of money.

The highest price of the 2022 Japanese Christmas dinner shows was “DANDYISM 2022” by Shinji Tanimura which was held on 23rd and 24th Dec. at the Imperial Hotel of  Tokyo. Originally, he had played as a solo singer since the days of Alice, but after the dissolution of them in 1981, he became even more active.

Of course, it is true that the market price of a dinner show is not directly linked to the market value of a singer. There are also many singers who hold dinner shows at high prices with the advantage of their name recognition but without any real ability. However, considering not only his ability as a singer but also his charming personality, this is a very appropriate result.

His Deep Relation with China

His most famous single song is “Pleiades”(昴 in Japanese), which was sung by himself at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo on April 30, 2010. This “昴”, read “Subaru” In Japanese, means the Pleiades star cluster in the shoulder region of the constellation Taurus, which is changed to “” in Chinese.

This song starts as follows:

As I close my eyes, I see nothing.
As I open them in sorrow, I see only a road into the wilderness.

He said that this song expressed a scene, which had flashed into his brain when he closed his eyes in his youth, would have a wilderness continuing down to the horizon and a star-filled sky with a cold wind blowing through.

At the next year when this song was launched, he visited Beijing for the first time for the invitation of a concert about 10th anniversary of Japan-China relations normalized. At then, he sensed the deep relation between the scene expressed by this song and the sight of Beijing and noticed that the Japanese, including himself, were focusing on the Western and could not face to the Asia.

Since then, he had frequently visited China and other Asian countries to play and share his music. In 2004, he became the first foreigner to be appointed professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he provided a unique education that was not influenced by convention. These steady and continuous activities had won him recognition and credibility in Asia, especially in China.

His Incredible Lyricism

Of course, his popularity was due to his activity as well as his sexy voice, his unique personality, and his great lyrical music also. His voice and his personality have already been proven by his dinner show prices and his brilliant achievements as a radio DJ. About his lyricism, I would like to explain through two songs.

22 Years Old(22-Sai) , which was launched at 1983, is about 22 years female’s  lost love.

Speaking of 22-year-olds, it might be imagined that they have much youth and moratorium.
However, in this song,

I will become a coward, little by little.
Do you know why?

 This lyrics make it seem as if she is an adult who has learned a lot and can make us a lot of imagination about why she was.

Shinji Tanimura Recital "The Singer"

Shinji Tanimura Recital "The Singer"

Media Type: DVD
Label/Distributor: Universal Music
Availability: CDJapan

Departure in a good day(Iihi-Tabidachi), which was launched in 1978, was sung by Momoe Yamaguchi.

This song is so famous in Japan and has been used at various promotions. One of the reasons is that she is a legend in Japanese pops music in the 1970s, and another is in this lyrics.

There is a someone waiting for me somewhere in Japan

Although the title make is us that this song is so positive, reading this lyric, we can understand that the reason why the masterpiece trips is caused by farewell to someone important. In other words, this journey is due to negative mind escaping from a sad reality.

Momoe Yamaguchi / Golden Best

Momoe Yamaguchi / Golden Best

Media Type: CD
Label/Distributor: Sony Music
Availability: CDJapan