b. Isamu Kajiyama, 17 January 1929, Ochi, Saga, Japan. Making a public appearance at the age of five as the son of performers of rôkyoku (a popular art of narrative chant), Kajiyama was hailed a ‘rôkyoku genius’. Singing in this style, he won an award in 1954 and subsequently took the stage name, Hideo Murata. After having enjoyed a reputation through the experiments with sound effects and orchestral accompaniment in his rôkyoku performances, he converted, in 1958, to kayôkyoku (formerly the most common and typically Japanese form of popular song) at the confident recommendation of Masao Koga, a renowned kayôkyoku composer. Murata’s first single, ‘Muhômatsu No Isshô’ (‘The Life Of Outrageous Matsu’) was a national hit, which was followed by ‘Jinsei Gekijô’ (‘Life’s Theatre) in 1959 and by the million-selling ‘Oshô’ (‘The Chess King’) in 1961. Common to all these songs is the image of a manly, industrious protagonist who is going through hardships, and this suitably matched Murata’s deep vocals trained in his rôkyoku days. Other notable hits in the following years included ‘Jûdô Ichidai’ (‘A Life Of Jûdo’), ‘Hana To Ryû (‘A Flower And A Dragon’) and ‘Jinsei Tôge’ (‘A Life’s Ridge’), which also celebrated a man who bears the sorrows of life.