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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

deaf Japanese composer genius is a fake? I can’t even

I honestly don’t know how to process this. From The New York Times:

TOKYO — He was celebrated as a prolific musical genius whose compositions appeared in popular video games and the competition routine of a top figure skater in the coming Sochi Olympics. His deafness won him praise as Japan’s modern-day Beethoven.

It turns out his magnum opus was his own masquerade.

On Thursday, Japan learned that one of its most popular musical figures, Mamoru Samuragochi, 50, had staged an elaborate hoax in which someone else had secretly written his most famous compositions, and that he had perhaps even faked his hearing disability.

Wait. What?

On Wednesday, Mr. Samuragochi expressed remorse for the deception, though he did not reveal why he chose to come forward at that particular moment.

“Samuragochi is deeply sorry as he has betrayed fans and disappointed others,” said a statement released by Mr. Samuragochi’s lawyer. “He knows he could not possibly make any excuse for what he has done.”

The reason for this sudden repentance became clear on Thursday when the ghostwriter revealed himself to be Takashi Niigaki, 43, a largely unknown part-time lecturer at a prestigious music college in Tokyo. Mr. Niigaki said he had written more than 20 songs for Mr. Samuragochi since 1996, for which he received the equivalent of about $70,000.

He said he felt so guilty about the deception that he had threatened to go public in the past, but Mr. Samuragochi had begged him not to. He said he finally could not take it anymore when he learned one of his songs would be used by the Olympic skater [Daisuke Takahashi]. He told his story to a weekly tabloid, which went on sale Thursday.

Just when you think people cannot get any more inexplicable, there’s this.

Much more at The New York Times. Not that it will help you understand.

posted in:
music | talent buzz
  • RogerBW

    For fame and money. Meh.

    (Why do people still believe celebrity autobiographies are written by the celebrity? Why is it lawful not to credit the ghostwriter?)

  • Do people believe that? Wow.

  • bronxbee

    i knew a ghostwriter, who was mostly credited, but told me for a large enough sum of money, many ghostwriters agree to remove their names from the books and covers. of course, most of them are also doing other writing (or were…it’s been a while since i spoke to this person, who wrote for magazines and newspapers.).

  • Jurgan

    I don’t see anything inexplicable about this. They wanted money, and they figured a glurgy story could sell music better than honesty. Period.

  • RogerBW

    bronxbee, sure, I’ve done it myself on a technical book. What I ask is: why is it legal to credit someone who didn’t write the book? Isn’t it false advertising? At least when big-name fiction authors lend their names to something they usually share credit, e.g. “Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey”, so you know that Misty wrote the book and Anne may have looked it over.

  • bronxbee

    it’s because it is a contract situation… a ghost writer and the subject agree to terms in a contract. and therefore each party knows what they are getting into and what their share or parity will be. and no offense, but most ghostwriters are *not* big name writers such as Anne McCaffrey but working writers… midlevel at best.

  • RogerBW

    I’m well aware of the present situation.

    What I’m asking is, why is it legal?

    I’m not allowed to sell food as “beef” if it’s made of pork, irrespective of what contract I may have with the farmer. I’m not allowed to sell a car as “a Jaguar” if it’s a Ford, even if the manufacturer is colluding with me to do so. Why am I allowed to sell a book as “by” Sharon Osbourne when it clearly isn’t?
    (In the example I gave, Lackey was the junior writer who did all the work, but she did at least get credited.)

  • bronxbee

    your question is an interesting one. i wonder if — at least in the US — it might have to do with whether or not it is harmful to public policy. does it harm the public if Big Star has a ghostwritten autobio that does not admit to being ghostwritten, if the two parties involved are in agreement as to the terms? i’m not a constitutional scholar, nor even a public policy scholar… if anyone else has the answer, i’d be interested myself.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    it is an interesting question, so I did a little digging. It seems the legal and ethical status of ghostwriting is something of an open question. Most of the links I could easily find focused on the issues of ghostwriting legal briefs and medical documentation. in both cases it doesn’t seem to be illegal, technically, but is frowned on ethically. I also found some discussion on whether it was false advertising if the cover quotes claims in a non-fiction book are inaccurate. Not a lot out there on issues in fiction or biography.
    My best guess, and IANAL, would be that the choice of who gets credited as the author does not, fundamentally, alter the contents of the book. It’s the exact same words, either way. That “Jaguar” doesn’t contain the same components, combined in the same way, as a real Jaguar. And obviously, that “beef” isn’t actually beef.*
    I also think that in some ways, ghostwriting is not that different from using a pseudonym. Not the same, as one is a different name while the other is a different person. But the thinking may be that you can’t call one fraudulent without calling the other into question.
    Some other possibilities:
    – Ghostwriting may be considered a form of licensing.
    – Outside of (some cases of) self-publishing, no book is the sole work of a single author.
    – In America, there are some First Amendment concerns regarding anonymity.

    * Though it’s worth noting that the United Stated Department of Agriculture has large sets of arcane rules detailing what foods can be labeled in what ways.

  • From what I’ve read, his deafness was partial and fairly debilitating to his ability to write music. He did actually gain his initial fame on his own work, only resulting to the ghostwriter after his partial deafness. The explanation he gave in a later interview was that the ghostwriter didn’t want the full time exposure, so the relationship was slightly beneficial for both, though obviously the ghostwriter was not compensated fairly.

    The details between their arrangement may actually be quite different, but this isn’t like one person held another hostage. Samuragochi had fame but a sudden lack of ability, Niigaki had talent but was unrecognized.

    Nobody should be terribly shocked by this. Look up Randy Newman or Michael Giacchino or Hans Zimmer. They all run _companies_ that produce the scores that have their sole name on films. Plenty of people get very minor credit for contributions to films and we don’t bat an eye.

  • David C-D

    IANAL but I’m not sure why it would be illegal. I think food is a special case because of food labeling laws. There is no contract between the publisher and purchaser of a book/music that would bind the publisher to disclose exactly how the work was created. The only thing I can think of that might apply is false advertising, but that usually only relates to specific, verifiable claims about the content or behavior of the item being purchased.

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