b. Kazue Katô, 29 May 1937, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. d. 24 June 1989. Katô began singing professionally at the age of nine at the Athens Theatre in Yokohama, and was given her stage name in 1948. ‘Hibari’ means a skylark and ‘Misora’, fair sky. After being refused by three record companies on the grounds that her performance sounded overtly pert and precocious, she was finally signed by Columbia Records in 1949, when her single ‘Kanashiki Kuchibue’ (Plaintive Whistle), a theme song for a film with the same title, was a Japanese hit. It was followed by more hits, including ‘Tokyo Kid’ and ‘Watashiwa Machino Ko’ (I’m A City Girl) which gave encouragement to the defeated post-war Japanese, as did the film performances of this teen star singing grown-up songs. As well as her numerous chart successes, she also won many awards, and appeared in over 150 films.
Misora was indisputably the all-time queen of kayôkyoku (formerly the most common and typically Japanese form of popular song). Some critics regret, however, that her versatile talent was prevented from fully developing by commercial manipulation; she was, for example, flexible enough to deal adeptly with American musical styles, as shown in her earlier recordings. Her stardom never waned until her death.