RC Succession Leader Dies

Kiyoshiro Imawano, the former leader of RC Succession and one of Japan’s most influential and original pop stars, died May 2 in a Tokyo hospital.

Imawano, 58, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006 and reportedly opted out of surgery in order to save his voice.

He underwent radiation treatments and seemed clear of the disease enough to launch a comeback in early 2008 at Budokan.

This comeback was supposed to culminate in a headlining appearance at last summer’s Fuji Rock but, only days before the festival started, cancer was discovered in his pelvis and the appearance was canceled.

According to newspaper accounts, Imawano entered the hospital feeling ill and his condition quickly deteriorated. The official cause of death was reported as lymphatic cancer.

With his painted nails, heavy mascara and fly-away hair, Imawano was one of the most eccentric pop stars in Japanese music.

He formed the legendary folk-rock group RC Succession in high school and debuted in 1970 with the song “I Don’t Buy Lottery Tickets.”

After the band broke up in 1991, Imawano’s solo career embraced multiple music styles, from blues to hard rock to soul.

He once toured Japan with Booker T and the MGs as his backup band.

Imawano was always controversial.

With his side group The Timers he wrote a novelty song in the ’80s about North Korea that resulted in his being blackballed on Japanese TV and radio for a short time.

He also recorded a punk version of the Japanese national anthem, “Kimi ga yo,” in 1999 that his record label refused to release. He eventually released it independently.

Unlike most Japanese rock and pop stars, he was politically vocal and involved in anti-war and anti-nuclear projects as well as the cause of Tibetan freedom.
But he also railed against Japan’s entrenched music business, complaining of the practice where new bands usually have to pay to perform at clubs.

His criticism, in fact, effectively delayed the release of an album of his in 2000 because his record company had close ties to a firm that managed concert venues.