I’m a big fan of Nat “King” Cole. He was a class act, an influential and ground-breaking pianist, and a vocalist whose smoothness, swing, and sensitivity few can match.
I am also a fan of Japanese music, everything from traditional kabuki to modern-day J-pop. On my last visit to Japan I purchased several J-pop “oldies” CD collections. One gem I found was a 4-CD collection of 100 hits from the 1950s and 60s. Most of these are remakes of American rock and pop songs, everything from “Jailhouse Rock” to “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” Nearly all of these were recorded by Japanese performers—all except for one. The song “L-O-V-E” was a pop hit for Nat Cole in the 1960s, and I nearly fell off my seat when I heard the man himself singing this tune in Japanese! I knew he had recorded an album in Spanish, but I had no idea he had recorded anything in Japanese. After a little Web searching I discovered he also recorded “Autumn Leaves” in Japanese (my guess is this pair of songs was originally released on a 45), but I have not yet been able to find a copy of this recording.
So how is Nat’s Japanese? It’s obvious someone wrote out the Japanese lyrics phonetically, and Nat sang them as written with no attempt at a natural-sounding accent. You can hear for yourself in a 30-second sample. Enjoy.