May 2nd is an important day to a lot of fans of Japanese music. It is a day of remembrance for two influential members of the music scene. One being hide, another being Kiyoshiro Imawano. I’m going to cover Kiyoshiro. It was difficult to come up with this. You see, I lost a dear friend just now to cancer. My cat, Maggie, who’s been my best friend for 14 years. (Note: I wrote this before we had to take her to the vet, because I know I wouldn’t be able to write about anything after that…)
A legend came to an end on May 2nd, 2009 when Kiyoshiro Imawano, the man dubbed “KING OF LIVE” and “KING OF ROCK” died.
Kiyoshiro Imawano was born as Kiyoshi Kurihara on April 2nd, 1951 in Nakano, Tokyo. He was raised in Kokubunjishi. In 1966, he formed a Folk-Rock band called The Clover. The band went through a couple of member changes, and name changes, from “Remainders of the Clover”, until the legendary RC Succession was born in 1968, and were signed to a major label, Toshiba EMI (EMI Music Japan) in 1970. They became one of the leading rocks bands in 1972 with their hit record, “Shoki no RC Succession”, and they recieved international acclaim. They took part in The day of R&B festival, in which Chuck Berry headlined. RC Succession has a live album from that show.
RC Succession was one of the early innovators of Rock music in Japan, with Kiyoshiro being one the biggest pioneers in Japanese rock history, adopting and working the Japanese language into his music.
In 1982, Kiyoshiro collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto of the electropop band Yellow Magic Orchestra, and released the song “Ikenai Rouge Magic”, which topped the Oricon charts.
Aside from his charming and charasmatic personality, and bright costumes and bold makeup, Kiyoshiro gained a lot of attention with his active political views, and speaking out against war, standing up for people’s rights and Tibetan freedom.
In 1988, RC Succession recorded an album of cover songs named “Covers”. The release was cancelled by Toshiba EMI, claiming the album was “too wonderful”. Kiyoshiro told the media it was because they recorded anti-war and anti-nuclear songs, and that they refused to remove them from the album, so Toshiba EMI cancelled the release. It was released later by Kitty Records, and because of the incident it garnered a lot of attention, and debuted at number 1 on the Oricon charts.
The band performed their last live show at Nippon Budokan on December 25, 1990. The members remained close and collaborated now and then. Kiyoshiro continued his solo career.
In 1992, Kiyoshiro went to Memphis and recorded an album with Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The mayor of Memphis gave Kiyoshiro an honorary citizenship.
May 2, 2009, Kiyoshiro died of lymphatic cancer. On May 9th, they held his funeral ceremony, titled “The Aoyama Rock n’ Roll Show”. Around 42,000 fans visited to bid farewell to him.