Saturday, October 07, 2017

Lee Yee (李逸): Malaysian Hearthrob Not Forgotten (唱首情歌给谁听?)

A schoolmate, well-versed in Mandarin, introduced me to a pop star when I was looking for a Chinese male singer to feature.  I have not featured one for many months. 

I am not too familiar with the golden years of 70's pop Chinese music in Singapore, so when he told me about a singer he was knowledgeable about I decided to buy one of this singer's vinyl (image below) and listen to the songs recorded. I must say I am impressed and thank Kin Kow for the information provided. 

Lee Yee (李逸) Jin Biao, was a household name in the early 1970's.  His feminine good looks attracted a lot of attention when he was performing during his hey-day in the region.

In the 60's and 70's the public was looking to Hong Kong and Taiwan for Chinese songs because audiences here felt that Singapore singers were not up to par, so when Lee, who came from Malaysia, appeared on the scene he became a phenomenon. 

He had charisma and a powerfully beautiful voice so Lee who had a contract with Life Records, a well-established vinyl company, became one of the most popular Chinese singers during that period. He became well known to the youth and aunties who loved him. 

He drew crowds and even toured with super diva Teresa Teng as a team when they performed in Malaysian towns.  The tours were successful and news spread that he could compete with the best from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They even compared him to Liu Wen Zheng.
For Whom Do I Sing This Love Song (唱首情歌给谁听?) was the number that made him famous and his rise to fame was meteoric after the sale of this particular single. The Malaysian-born Chinese made it such a hit that the pop music Chinese community all over the world associated him with this song.

For whom am I singing this love song?
Where can I find a soul mate?
There is so much passion deep inside me
I cannot finish singing or talk about it.

Everything went well as his fan base grew. It was quite a feat those days for an unknown Malaysian singer to hit the headlines and make it big. The competition was keen indeed.  
During the early 70's, although there were other talented Chinese singers both in Singapore and Malaysia, his songs stood out because he was able to interpret them in his own special way. So even if the song had been covered by other singers, his own version would always stand out.

He sang with a wail in his voice like a tormented, passionate lover. He would usually sing out a verse from the song lyrics during the introduction.  If Tomorrow Comes was an example. Lee was known for his sad and sorrowful songs that aroused the listener's sympathy. Girls were known to have cried listening to him sing.
              In Memory of Lee Yee: Video produced by Life Records. 

But as the saying goes, when one least expects it, tragedy strikes. And it did. One morning the local newspapers announced that Lee Yee was killed in an accident. It happened on 27 July 1980.  Born in Penang in 1952, he was only 28 when he died. It was such a shock to many fans.

There was disbelief and many cried openly when they found out it was true. Here was a rising young star with a stable and bright future. It was an untimely death as fate had its own plan. Worse, Lee Yee left behind his wife - also a Life Record artiste - and a daughter.

Despite the years, many fans still remember him today because his emotional rendition of Chinese sentimental popular songs was indeed unique. 

Comment anyone?
                        Crowds thronged the streets during his funeral

Images: Google.
Information from Mr Chan Kin Kow and articles by: irisesinthesun YouTube.



Some of my friends do like to sing his songs during KTV sessions.


Lee Yee was a favourite of many in the region including my wife.


Interesting that you managed to post this article.

anonymous said...

A familiar face on Channel 8 in the 70's. Especially in Malaysia.

JENNIE LAW said...

He is about the same age as me, born the same year. I heard his songs but don't really know how he looks like. Maybe during those days, I am more into Cliff Richard n Elvis...Thanks for sharing. I also know Sakura, Rita and Wang Chin Yuen

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Jennie, thanks for taking time to provide your personal perspective on the subject matter. It is rare indeed. I hardly know this singer if not for the writer Mr Chan who is deep into the Chinese culture. But Lee Yee's voice is special indeed.

A big thank you to the others who replied and commented.

FL said...

Andy, honestly I am not familiar with the singer Lee Yee during the 1970s. Also, am sad to hear that Lee Yee's singing career ended so early at a young age but I heard those songs in that video back then. During the 60s and 70s, I was more inclined listening to English pops and hardly know some Chinese singers. Also, we did not have the privilege of the internet then to do searches. But it's still a good idea to highlight those singers who had done well in their heyday and to share with all of us. Thanks, Andy.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks, FL. I have always been keen to collect vinyl of that era and managed to buy Lee Yee's LP. His voice is superb, well-modulated and clear, with much feeling put into his songs.

I enjoy some, the well-known, LOVERS' TEARS (qing ren te yen lei) and 3 YEARS (san nien). You can find them on YouTube.

Again thanks for your feedback. Always appreciate a note from you because I know the article must have touched your heart.

Poh Huat Tbg (Sekolah Menengah Dato Jaafar, Malaysia) said...


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Mr Poh. Coming from a Malaysian, your comment is truly appreciated.

JENNIE LAW said...

Andy, I spend some time listening to all his songs and realised that Lee Yee is indeed a legend. His songs are everywhere. Now I recalled that my brother in law even got his records. All along I thought all these songs are sung by Taiwanese singer. Never knew he is the one who made Malaysia proud. I can even sing one or some of his songs... Thanks Andy for bringing his songs to my life again. I feel I am only 16 years old now...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Jennie, I am glad you've discovered who Lee Yee was. As mentioned in the article, he was comparable to other singers in this region. Hope you will play his songs again and remember the years when you were still a teen. :-)

gozienz said...

Coming from non-mandarin background and never really had much chance to know him nor to hear him as I was only a teenager when he died of the tragic accident at the prime of his career. I now can catch-up with his singing thanks to potify. His melodic, powerful, manly and deep voice are such a wonder to listen and will be an inspiration to all. Rest in peace Lee Yee and thanks for leaving your legacy for us to enjoy.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi gozienz,
Thanks so much for taking time to comment on the blog and sharing your music experience with us.
Appreciate your call and hope you will continue to read the blog and make comments.
I shall check out connection.
Please visit the blog again.