March 5, 2016

Everyone’s Favorite Bullsh*t Song About Japan!

YorkSpace Library
Four of six members of the Au Brothers Jazz Band are of at least half Japanese descent. Yet—and this may wrinkle a few brows—one of their favorite songs to perform is Harry Warren and Mort Dixon’s 1928 hit “Nagasaki,” or, as I like to call it, everyone’s favorite bullshit song about Japan! (Plug: I should mention that the Au Brothers recorded the song on their forthcoming album—more info here.)

For those of you not yet wrinkling your brows: Surprise!—“Nagasaki” contains some lyrics that are frankly cringe-inducingly offensive. Forget politically incorrect: these are OMFG incorrect.

With sweet kimoner, I pulled a boner, I kept it up at high speed.
I got rheumatics, and then sciatics,
halitosis, that’s guaranteed.
Not too gentle and not too rough,
but you’ve got to tell them when you’ve had enough

So how can anyone perform this song in good conscience, in this day and age? More to the point: how can a band with so many Japanese Americans not only perform, but SING this song, and repeatedly, with gusto and glee?

The answer, as with so many real-life things, is: it’s complicated.