Joe Yamanaka / Sept 2, 1946 - Aug 7, 2011

Here's a birthday shout-out to the Japan's Yamanaka Joe, actor, singer, activist & humanitarian. Born Akira Yamanaka to a Japanese prostitute mother and a Caribbean-American soldier father he never met, whom he believed to be either Cuban or Jamaican.

He grew up in an orphanage and got TB as a kid. He started boxing at 16 and became a well-known "tough guy" actor in several Japanese flicks. After singing in blues band Mystic Morning he joined Flower Travellin' Band in 1970. FTB were one of the earliest (and best!) of the bands who were greatly influenced by Black Sabbath. They resided in both Canada and Japan and are considered pioneers in Japanese hard rock & psychedelia. (Check out their killer album Satori!)

Flower Travellin' Band broke up in '73 and Joe released some solo albums, as well as co-scoring a 1980 movie soundtrack with Amália Rodrigues. After Bob Marley's death, Joe became lead singer of The Wailers for much of the '80s. His compassion led him to touring impoverished and/or wartorn countries as a volunteer relief-worker for a Japanese government organization.

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