Trailblazer singer dies

Top News | Amy Nip 18 May 2018

Japanese singer Hideki Saijo, who captured Asian fans in the 1970s with his adaptation of YMCA, has died at the age of 63.

Hugely popular in Hong Kong, Saijo was friends with Cantopop stars Anita Mui Yim-fong and Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, and his songs were adapted into Cantonese versions by Roman Tam Pak-sin.

Saijo died of heart failure late on Wednesday in Yokohama. He went into hospital there on April 25 after falling unconscious.

Born in Hiroshima, Saijo made his performing debut at 17 and won fans with a high-energy style. And he broadened his appeal in 1979 after adapting American classic YMCA into Young Man (YMCA), selling 1.4 million copies.

Saijo achieved many firsts.

Among them was performing before the Seoul Olympics in 1988, becoming the first Japanese since World War II to sing in the language of his country in South Korea. And he sang at the Great Wall of China in 1998 to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Peace and Friendship pact.

In Hong Kong, his songs were made into Cantopop versions, including Let Me Go Wild and A Great Song Devoted To You by Roman Tam.

Mui was the vice president of a Saijo fan club. And when she died in 2003 Saijo said she was like a sister. Saijo attended the funeral of Cheung in 2003. That Cheung wore high heels in a concert impressed him, Saijo said.

Singer William So Wing-hong mourned Saijo yesterday, saying he was his first idol with the best qualities of a traditional entertainer.

Saijo suffered strokes in 2003 and 2011, which left him with a speech impairment and his right side paralyzed. But he worked hard on his rehabilitation and was on stage 40 days after his second stroke. He also walked three hours daily as he prepared for a concert this October.

Saijo was 46 when he married Miki Makihara, 18 years his junior, in 2001. She survives him with their 16-year-old daughter and sons aged 13 and 14.

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