We Love Charlee Forever

My good friend Charlee Laine, originally from London, UK, had a long career in musicals in the UK and concerts in Las Vegas, USA. Through the acquaintance and marriage with Yoshiko, who is from Kasugai City and studied in the UK, Charlee came to Japan in 2012. Even after coming to Japan, Charlee actively pursued various activities as a singer and entertainer, working with his wife Yoshiko, who was also his producer and manager. Their connection with the Hat Spring Project started with a newspaper article introducing their activities. They were dedicated to charity work, too.

The English lyrics of my original song “Anata o Omoeba,” When I Think of You in English, which was born out of interactions with the people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, were first translated by Yuko, and developed through discussions among Charlee, Yoshiko, Yuko, and members of the Project including me. Charlee performed the song at his live event in the fall of 2017, organized by the Project above. There are countless good memories from that moment to many others.

Charlee had been undergoing treatment for an illness but unfortunately passed away in December of last year. He was planning to come back with a concert this spring while his health was improving. He couldn’t return to the stage. Yoshiko wished for an opportunity to reminisce and share memories of Charlee’s singing voice with his fans through a video concert. That’s why She organized this video concert. I was so happy to be invited to the planning meeting as a friend of Charlee and Yoshiko and also representing The Hat Spring Project. I had the pleasure of creating the concert’s flyer and program and assisting with the event’s operation.

On Sunday, November 20th, the “Charlee Laine Memorial Video Concert” was held at Green Palace Kasugai.

On the day of the video concert, the weather forecast predicted rain. Still, as Yoshiko said, “It’ll be alright. Charlee was a man who brought good weather,” the weather turned into a pleasant and calm sunny day. From the venue opening until the concert’s start, those who came enjoyed photos of Charlee’s past performances and interactions with his friends on a large screen, and memories of Charlee were shared while watching the slideshow. A video message and song from Azuma Aki, an Enka singer mentored by Charlee and currently active in Tokyo, were also presented.

The concert program began with passionate scenes from Charlee’s 50th-anniversary concert, followed by footage of his musical performances in the UK and collaborations with big bands in Japan. In between songs, Yoshiko shared memories of Charlee, his feelings expressed through his songs, and his love for Japan, recounting many impressive episodes. In the second half, during the “Let’s Sing with Charlee!,” everyone sang along with Charlee’s performances on the screen. Songs like “Ue o Muite Arukou” (known as “Sukiyaki” in English) and “Hana wa Saku” (as The Flowers Will Bloom) resonated throughout the venue. It felt like Charlee was there, singing with everyone, just like in the past, creating a warm and overwhelming atmosphere.

Then, we saw a video of Yoshiko’s favorite Charlee singing. While talking about memories of Charlee and watching his performances on the screen, Yoshiko could not hold back tears. Charlee had always kept specific footage and fame, such as starring in musicals in his younger days in the UK, sealed away, saying, “I don’t want to dwell on the past.” However, he asked Yoshiko to share those moments with everyone who supported him after his passing.

In the end, Yoshiko introduced several episodes from the ‘Memories of Charlee’ provided by his friends and fans. There were joyful memories like ‘When I went to the hot springs with Charlee-san, he suddenly dived into the bath, surprising me,’ and many voices of concern and encouraging messages for Yoshiko, who was left behind. It felt like everyone embraced Charlee’s wish to ‘Take care of Yoshiko,’ Those messages were heartwarming and moving.

I thanked Yoshiko and those who came to the video concert. At the venue, we sold cookies from the NPO ‘Minori-en’ in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, which has continued its exchange and support since the earthquake. I was so happy and humbled as they sold out in no time. Yoshiko also provided time to introduce the Hat Spring Project. And Yoshiko, with the name Charlee, donated to the NPO Minorien in disaster-affected areas from the proceeds of this memorial concert. Let me report here that I sent the gift to Minorien and received the thank-you letter from the president.

At the venue were displays of items connected to Charlee and gifts from the American singer Frankie Lane, who mentored Charlee. There was also a sale of costumes and some of Charlee’s favorite hats he wore during concerts, driven by Yoshiko’s desire for everyone to continue cherishing Charlee in their hearts. Although Charlee has passed away, I strongly felt he was present on this day, enjoying himself with everyone there. It was a warm and pleasant video concert filled with gratitude from Yoshiko and Charlee for all the support and interactions they received from those who loved them.

The final song shown during the concert’s finale was ‘My Way.’ While moved to tears by the overwhelming vocals, everyone burst into laughter when Charlee, kneeling and singing, stood up deliberately wobbly as if saying, ‘Oh, I’m tired.’ Charlee, the beloved entertainer who never ran out of jokes and always made everyone laugh, may we remain eternal.

Charlee, be connected with Yoshiko, and let your incredible singing voice resonate in heaven. Thank you very much.

We love Charlee Forever!