Hideki Saijo, a singer popular in Asia and best known for his cover song of the megahit “Y.M.C.A.,” died of acute heart failure Wednesday, his office said. He was 63.
The television celebrity took the Japanese music industry by storm in the 1970s and 1980s, rolling out hits including 1979’s “Young Man,” the Japanese version of U.S. disco group Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” and “Kizudarake no Lola” (Scarred Lola) in 1974.
Saijo, also an actor, debuted in 1972 at the age of 16 and quickly rose to stardom along with idol singers Hiromi Go and Goro Noguchi. Together they were dubbed “Shin Gosanke,” or the top three.
Saijo had performed in other Asian countries since the 1980s and sang at an event on the eve of the 1988 Seoul Olympics in South Korea at a time when public performances of Japanese songs were banned.
In 1998 he became the first Japanese to perform in front of China’s Great Wall.
Captivating fans with his passionate singing style and dynamic stage performance, Saijo’s hits also included “Boomerang Street” in 1977.
He appeared in the TV comedy series “Terauchi Kantaro Ikka,” which depicted a traditional Japanese family, and the film “Ai to Makoto” (Love and Truth). In the 1990s, he scored a hit with “Hashire Shojikimono” (Run, Honest Person), the theme song of animation “Chibi Maruko-chan.”
He was hospitalized in both 2003 and 2011, but continued his music career while undergoing rehabilitation.