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2014 Experience Music Project Pop Conference
Go! Music and Mobility
EMP Museum, Seattle, Washington
24-27 April 2014
Wanda Jackson Goes to Japan: The Hidden Histories of “Fujiyama Mama”
Sometimes a piece of music goes mobile because it seems to belong to a time or place other than its own. Such is the case with “Fujiyama Mama,” an R&B number written by Jack Hammer in 1954 and most famously recorded by Wanda Jackson in 1957. The song, in which the protagonist compares herself to a sexually charged atom bomb, was never a hit in America. Jackson’s rockabilly-styled cover, however, did find success elsewhere. What is curious about this movement is that, despite explicit references to the devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the record and its singer became popular in post-Occupation Japan. This paper will leverage the cross-cultural reception history of “Fujiyama Mama” in order to interrogate the ways in which female singers have been represented within the origin myths of rock and roll.