Fumiya Fujii

Courtesy of Wowow

Back in the ' Fumiya Fujii pranced around with a bunch of little Japanese boys all dressed in checked suits looking like something you might see on Polk Street on St. Patrick's Day a kind of camp version of the Bay City Rollers. The group, the major '80s boy band Checkers, was Fujii's vehicle to stardom, musical success and the first showcase for his distinct vocal talent.

The silly costumes may be gone - as are the six others who faded into oblivion when the group disbanded in 1992 - but Fujii's solo career is anything but over. His first solo single, "True Love," was picked as the theme song for the hit drama "Asu naro Hakusho" and broke the two million sales mark. Several successful albums and many million-selling singles later, "True Love" remains a Fumiya classic and strains of it pop up every now and then in other Fumiya work.

Born on July 11, 1962 in Kurume City, Kyushu, Fujii and his brother (who was also in Checkers and Fumiya's collaborator in their F-Blood project) had musical urgings from early on. Influenced by the film American Graffitti, and the American rock music played on US armed forces radio at the time, Fujii formed a band that soon became one of the hotter acts around the Kurume area. Two bands and several new members later, Checkers was born. They had the youth, looks, talent and drive and all they had to do was wait for two members, Naoyuki and Kurobe, to graduate from high school so they could make the move to Tokyo and pop music history.

Ten years after their successful debut, Checkers was at the top of the pop music world, having released 59 singles and ten albums in addition to several videos and a film. They had performed on countless national tours, earned a wall full of industry awards and by the time they said their good-byes, Fujii had written nearly 109 songs for the band.

Before leaping into the deep end music-wise, Fumiya took some time to pursue another passion, art. Debuting with the aptly entitled "FUMIYART~Take a Break~," Fujii exhibited his computer-generated graphic art in Shibuya, before touring nine cities. To date he has designed sets for his live shows and has held several more well-received exhibitions, including "FUMIYART 2 in New York" in 1995 and "FUMIYART 3 in Paris" in 1997 in Paris. He has now opened his own gallery in Ebisu.

Well into his seventh solo year, Fujii shows no signs of slowing as his schedule continues to fill up with ever more diverse and challenging engagements, like his role in the hit TV series "Tenshi ga Kieta Machi." Further acting roles followed with his film debut coming in the hit contemporary jidaigeki (period drama) Samurai Fiction. Fujii, it seems, is one of those rare artists that has equal success in whatever medium he chooses - displaying the kind of talent that would have made it big even without the checkered past.

Alex Jordan

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ISSUES 248/9-