I attended the Rolling Coconut Review Japan Concert in Tokyo that was a benefit concert for “Japan Celebrates the Whale & Dolphin – the Seas Must Live” event by The Dolphin Project in 1977. The Rolling Coconut Review featured an amazing gathering of performers including Jackson Browne, John Sebastian, J D Souther, Fred Neil (1936-2001), Country Joe McDonald, Paul Winter, Terry Reid, Mimi Farina (1945-2001), Richie Havens, Danny O’Keefe, Odetta (1930-2008), Warren Zevon (1947-2003), Eric Andersen, Lonnie Mack, Japanese folk singer and actor Izumiya Shigeru, and a jazz-funk band named Stuff with keyboardist Richard Tee (1943-1993), drummer Steve Gadd, guitarist Eric Gale (1938-1994), guitarist Cornell Dupree (1942-2011) and bassist Gordon Edwards. At the time that I wrote this blog I think all of the musicians who passed away prior to 2012 died from cancer with the exception of Odetta who died from heart disease. Their incredible contributions to music can be found on Youtube or online music tribute web sites but their participation in the Rolling Coconut Review Japan Concert is seldom told.
I first met The Dolphin Project coordinator Mark Lavelle at a Japanese Language Speech Contest in San Francisco in 1976 sponsored by the Japanese Speaking Society of America (Beikoku Nichigo Kyokai). Mark’s speech in Japanese was about the campaign to save the whales. My speech was about my experience as an exchange student in Japan in 1974-75. Neither of us won the contest but Mark and I were both headed back to Japan and I arrived in Tokyo in December 1976 and made contact with the Tokyo office of The Dolphin Project to learn about the dates for the concerts to be held in the spring of 1977.
When I met Mark in Tokyo that year he invited me to attend the events and also the aftershow party that was held at the end of the concerts. This was probably the concert of the decade in Tokyo although I had seen Stevie Wonder in a remarkable concert at the Budokan in 1975 while spending the year as an exchange student at Waseda University. At the aftershow party I enjoyed meeting Jackson Browne, talking to John Sebastian and doing a little interpreting for Richard Tee of Stuff. He was a pretty big guy and the Japanese fans were really looking up to talk to him while I was tilting one ear down to hear them and the other up to hear Richard. He was a lot of fun and the entire party was good times.
The concerts drew attention to the Greenpeace campaign to save the whales. I did not know the story of Ric O’Barry at the time but he was there and I learned about his connection to the American television show Flipper and how he founded The Dolphin Project in 1970 to free dolphins from captivity. Some of the newspapers of that time referred to him as Richard Barry O’Feldman which was his birth name but it is by his adopted name Ric O’Barry that he became known as an environmental activist and famous in the Academy Award-winning film, The Cove (2009). The film was a suspense filled drama that used covert techniques to obtain footage of the dolphin round-up and slaughter at a secret cove at Taiji, Japan. In 1974 I had travelled along the Wakayama coast and even hitchhiked by boat to Taiji but I missed seeing the specific cove where the dolphin hunt takes place. It is a beautiful scenic coastline and one would not believe that a horrific slaughter of dolphins takes place at a hidden cove along the coast. When the movie The Cove appeared in 2009 I finally saw the rest of the story. In 2010 it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and was highly controversial in Japan. http://thecovemovie.com/WatchTheTrailer.htm
There was film footage shot of the event by Eric Christensen filming the event who is known for his film The Trips Festival Movie, other Rock n’ Roll concert films, and television programming of sporting events (See http://www.thetripsfestival.com/eric.html ). I don’t think that his Rolling Coconuts Review Japan Concert film was ever released and it would be great to see the footage now of the concerts especially since The Cove received so much attention and yet many of the perfomers who particpated in the Japan Concert are no longer with here to tell their stories.