Thursday, April 25, 2013

Playlist Tribute: Remembering the legendary stars of yesteryear today – Part 1, Leslie Cheung & Anita Mui

As you all probably know, it’s been 10 years since the HK entertainment industry lost one of its icons, Leslie Cheung. Of course, many of his fans gathered to commemorate him by folding over 190,000 paper cranes in honor of his memory, which really shows that his impact was more far-reaching than HK alone (you can check out this clip where you can read some of his fans heartfelt letters - they really are quite touching). Even actor Gregory Charles Rivers (the guy that played/plays just about every foreign European in every TVB drama) has his Chinese name based on Leslie’s (Ho Kwok-Wing).

No one, currently in the industry possessed so much charm, charisma, good looks, sound and talent like Leslie did. Gor gor, in my opinion had one of the BEST voices that I have every heard, not just of HK artists but overall. Leslie’s voice is not overly rich, yet masculine and clear. None of that whiny squealing or monotone stuff that a lot of other artists do these days. And zounds! Watching short clips of those who had met Leslie in person, just average Joes, no celebs, they all gave the same response. That he was handsome (no doubt) and very nice. It sounds like Leslie was quite a joy to be around, by the looks of things.

Now I’ve made a little playlist as a small tribute (and no, I didn’t get to watch the tribute concert because there was no broadcast for me – I might see if I can watch/find a link online and share) Just found the tribute here. As usual, I’m late on the ball but as always my intentions are good (heheh!). As the years have gone by, we’ve lost not only stars like Leslie, but treasures like Anita Mui, Teresa Teng, Danny Chan, Wong Ka-Kui and Roman Tam. And quite recently, we have also lost some of screen’s finest actors, like Jacqueline Law (who had cancer).

Anyway I’d like to not only draw attention to Leslie alone, so I’ve pulled a playlist out of my sleeve to pay a mini-tribute to these stars, I hope I’ve at least done a better job than the show <“Our Chinese Heart”> in making a playlist that’s more representative of the songs that most people heard and fell in love with. This playlist, I think, is a little more special not only because I’ve really taken more care in hand-picking the tracks, but because these songs were sung with the voices of superstars. In my opinion, they weren’t only the pioneers of Cantopop (and in Teresa’s case, Mandopop), they were the essence of it, as well as the “entertainment” part of the industry. Still, this playlist is not supposed to be all about tears of the bygone but of celebration and commemoration.

So let’s put the records on play and take some time to remember and appreciate some of the classics these stars really made their own. I’ll be covering the artists in pairs and updating the playlist as I go. And, as with all my playlists, please enjoy!

I know, I know, this was the first song from my playlist but I swear this is the only ‘repeat’ from all my playlists. And I just couldn’t resist – it felt strange not to include this track. It is one of my favourite songs from Gor Gor and definitely one of his signature tracks. I really do love everything about this song – from Joseph Koo’s melodic composition, Wong Jim’s brilliant lyrics, down to Leslie’s voice. Can’t fault this classic or the movie from which it came from.

Okay, so this was originally released as a Japanese single, as probably everyone knows. But it’s one of Leslie’s first upbeat pop tracks that caught the public’s attention. I’ve put in his live performance at the 1984 JSG Song Awards. You can hear all the fangirls screaming in the background whenever he sung out “Monica” and you can certainly see why! Leslie was very, very handsome and he looked really adorable with his sweet smile on stage. He really lit up the stage back then.

Again, a Momoe Yamaguchi single that got used for Leslie. I know there has been a lot of criticism regarding originality for Cantopop taking Japanese tunes and pasting lyrics over the compositions. I don’t actually have a problem with this as long as the consequences are good. In other words, as long as the composition is good in the first place, the lyrics are suitable and the singer is able to imprint their own style onto it and make it sound good at the same time. I would say that with Leslie’s voice, this was not a hard feat for him. This live performance clip from his concert is where he gets caught up with the emotion and, even with tears in his eyes, he still managed to give a rendition that was worthy of an ovation. And may his songs keep blowing on.

This was actually a little song which Leslie himself composed but had the help of legendary ‘God of Songs’ Sam Hui to pen the encouraging lyrics for him, just as he was going through a rough patch in his life. This was a collaborative effort, so I’ve chosen to put in a clip from Sam Hui’s retirement concert where Leslie and Sam sing this song together. Well, less talking from me and more listening. After all, silence is golden!

Not strictly a Leslie song since it’s been covered by quite a number of artists. You can really tell why James Wong was responsible for this and Leslie was one of those artists who could cover pretty much every track and put his own spin on it. He also had a better live singing voice than on recording, which is something quite remarkable. Listening to all this Autotune and unnecessary technology involved in recordings always makes me miss those kinds of artists even more. Veteran singer-actress Deanie Ip also pulls off a fantastic cover of this very same song, for instance. Leslie was truly ‘the pride and glory of a nation’ (a translation of his name Kwok-Wing). Whenever we look at the stars, we will remember Gor Gor along with the other brilliant stars that graced the stage.  

Yes, a Japanese ‘remake’, like several of Leslie and Anita songs but definitely a classic. This song and awed many people at the 1989 JSG Song Awards because of its beautiful melody and its heart-wrenching lyrics and, still lives on today. Speaking of the song’s beautiful melody, Priscilla Chan used this as the backing to her ‘farewell song’, “Thousands of Songs”, in te very same year. I like to think of these songs as flipsides to a mixtape or vinyl record. Same melody, different voices, but both beautiful songs. GroggyBot wrote about these two songs here, and I’m answering just three years late, but for me, Anita’s version is the one that wins hands down, as much as I’m a sucker for Priscilla’s pretty voice and felt it was a shame that she ‘left’ the industry at her peak. Or maybe I'm just biased or slightly masochistic. The main reason would have to be Anita’s ability to interpret lyrics and carve a very moving tale out of them. With this skill, she also had a powerful voice and control like no other.

Continuing the theme of sad but beautiful songs, this one always makes me watery-eyed just because of how melancholy it is. I suppose Anita’s tragic life, including her unhappy childhood and upbringing contributed to this sense of emotion and wanting to be loved. The song’s lyrics reflect this and Japanese composer Kitaro’s music carries the song through with strings sounding like falling raindrops or tears. This was one of the songs that I have translated personally but I shall leave you with a translation (that I found at this particular Cantodict thread) by a fellow Youtuber, cheunggal88, who I think not only appreciates but captures the heart-breaking beauty of it all.
"Who is controlling my destiny: This daily struggle, in a sea of humanity? My heart is saddened; Years had passed like flowing water; Yesterday just would not stay! … What remain are only memories; One after another, forever intertwined. In the vast mystic waves, My memories drift back to those yester-years. Their faces have changed, Their status too, But the passion forever remains!"  

Now I know the last two songs were sad ballads, but I haven’t forgotten that Anita was a very versatile performer. This track was chosen as a performance for the 1988 Seoul Olympics and you can tell why. It’s an upbeat, catchy and daringly sexy (yes I said it, but that is what the song is about) song with lyrics by Poon Wai-Yuen and a very 80’s electropop sound from composer and friend, Anthony Lun.

A little revision of a not so well-known 80’s Europop song, featuring Grasshopper. Now Mui Jeh took on a lot of disciples during her lifetime but, none probably got as popular as Grasshopper after she got them to be her backup dancers/singers. Though, of course, the music video originally featured her other disciple, Andy Hui. As for the song itself, it is a really ‘cool’ kind of style with stiff kind of dance moves and an icy stare. Synthesizer beats too.

A remake of Momoe Yamaguchi’s “Rock & Roll Widow” and rightly so. Okay, so I cheated on this one – this is a performance featuring Leslie. An Easter egg surprise! I know they also had the duet “Fate” but that song doesn’t showcase their dance skills and chemistry as much as this one. The pair really could work up the stage in-sync, like a special bond or contract they shared. 


  1. Can't believe it's been 10 years! 1993 and 2003 saw deaths of great stars that are irreplaceable, HK music can never return to its former glory =(( These songs are classic! There are so many more that I really love from Leslie & Anita, especially the original compositions by Michael Lai and Anthony Lun, definitely not inferior to the covered songs =)

    1. Me too (a decade?) - those were very sad years for the music and entertainment industries! And they really were the superstars people all came to love. And yup! It's hard to summarize what Leslie and Anita did in just 10 songs - they had much more influence than that. I've got to agree that Michael and Anthony worked their magic with some of Leslie and Anita's songs. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 :D