With great respect and fondness, I bid a belated sayonara to a most beloved songbird from my youth. Miyoshi Umeki, a wonderful talent, slipped quietly away in August of 2007. I found out quite by accident, a short while ago.
Perhaps you will remember her from the old film, "Sayonara," for which she earned a Best-Supporting Actress Oscar. She played the wife of Red Buttons. Marlon Brando was the film's star.
Others may know her from the musical film, "Flower Drum Song," and still more may know her from the old television show, "The Courtship of Eddie's Father."
Miyoshi Umeki is lovingly counted on my list of mentors. She was well-known in Japan and Southeast Asia as a singer when I was growing-up in Malaysia and Singapore. In voice, she made herself known to me and beckoned me down a musical road.
When she spoke, her voice was air...light, respectfully joyous...as if she sighed and hid behind the fan of modesty, of expectation. Ah, but when she sang...she was water...fluid, deep, changeable and full of something that could not be described, something that made your chest ache and soothe all at the same time. She sounded like both the pressure and the pleasure of the deep end of the pool.
I went searching through yooztoobies and found this perfect gem of a video. I've provided the link below, to ease the load for those on dial-up computers.
Miyoshi Umeki was a guest with Gisele MacKenzie, just after her Oscar-win. Listen to her voice as she enters the scripted banter with her hostess. Hear the breathiness of her speaking voice and then allow yourself the pleasure of diving deep with her into the song, "How Deep Is The Ocean." Listen to her open her delightful instrument, deep and soulful one minute, high and shimmering with vibrato in the song's break.
So I bid you sayonara, little songbird. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world.