I’ve just learned from the Tokyo Shinbun that Ito Emi, one of the twin sisters known as The Peanuts (ザ・ピーナッツ), has passed away. She was 71 years old. The Peanuts debuted in 1959 with “Cute Flower” (Kawaii Hana), launching a string of pop hits built on the sisters’ vocal harmonies that carried them through their retirement in 1975. Many of their songs contain an international flavor, such as “Coffee Rhumba” (1962), their cover version of “Moliendo Café”:
Their signature number was undoubtedly “Vacation of Love” (Koi no bakansu, 1963):
The Peanuts were also an omnipresent on Japanese television in the 1960s. They made numerous appearance in the U.S. and Europe, as well. Readers might recall their rather odd recurring role as miniature fairies in the Mothra monster movies.
The Peanuts’ music holds up remarkably well today: terrific harmonies, attractive arrangements, and excellent choice of material. I thought about including a chapter on them in my book, Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop, but in the end ran out of time. Maybe someday I’ll get around to writing about them: they are essential figures in the history of Japanese popular music.
RIP, Ito Emi.
UPDATE: A friend has sent along a link to this wonderful clip, a collection of scenes from “Shabondama Holiday” (Soap Bubble Holiday), the 1960s tv show that featured The Peanuts.