Maki Asakawa (浅川 マキ), January 27, 1942 – January 17, 2010) was a Japanese jazz and blues singer, lyricist and composer.
Born in Ishikawa Prefecture, after graduating high school she worked as a civil servant for a short time before moving to Tokyo. Particularly influenced by the styles of Mahalia Jackson and Billie Holiday, she began her career singing at US Army bases and at cabarets.
Asakawa made her debut recording, “Tokyo Banka/Amen Jiro” with Victor in 1967. After appearing in a series of concerts organized by underground playwright Shuji Terayama in 1968, she signed with Toshiba, presently EMI Music Japan, and released the popular songs, 夜が明けたら (Yo ga aketara; At the Break of Dawn) and かもめ (Kamome; Gull) in 1969. Her debut album, 浅川マキの世界 (Asakawa Maki no Sekai; Maki Asakawa’s World), was released in 1970.
In addition to writing and composing, she also released cover versions of US traditional folk and blues, translated to Japanese, such as “Asahi no ataru ie (朝日のあたる家)” (The House of the Rising Sun).
She became popular in the 1970s and had made more than 30 releases by the end of the 1990s, after which she was mostly known for performing live.
Asakawa collaborated with musicians such as Yosuke Yamashita and Ryuichi Sakamoto. She continued performing live until the time of her death. Scheduled to perform in Nagoya January 15–17, 2010, she died before her show on the 17th, at the age of 67, of heart failure.
The title ‘Onna’ (‘女’) means ‘Woman’ in Japanese. This recording from the late 1970s is available on the 1996 collection ‘Darkness III’ (EMI Music Japan).