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Liang Hongzhi: Remembering a Life in Song
2004-11-22 9:45:12     CRIENGLISH.com
Hello, and welcome to another edition of China Beat, I'm your host Paul Kendall. Our program today is respectfully dedicated to Liang Hongzhi, a renowned Taiwanese songwriter who died of heart failure at the beginning of this month.


Let's first listen to Wish You a Long Life, a song adapted by Liang from a famous Song Dynasty poem by Su Shi, and sung for modern audiences by Hong Kong pop star Wang Faye.
What we've just heard is probably Chinese poetry's most famous mention of the moon. The last two lines, "We wish each other a long life, so as to share the beauty of this graceful moonlight, even though miles apart", are lines frequently quoted in Chinese literature. The poem has been set to different pieces of music, including various Chinese operas. However, the most popular version is the one we heard just composed by Liang Hongzhi. The song was first sung by Teresa Deng, a woman who drastically influenced the mainland pop music scene. Faye Wong is just one of those who received Teresa's influence, and also not the only one who has re-rendered Teresa's own original rendition of this song. Though first heard decades ago, the song has kept its charm thanks to a perfect combination of poetry and melody.

For many years Liang Hongzhi remained an unknown name to many people on the mainland. Despite being the writer of more than 500 songs, including some well known classics, Liang seemed to prefer his status as the man behind the curtain. It was in the 1980s that his songs first began to be heard on the mainland, as sung by a number of minor singers. Just Like Your Tenderness is one of Liang's earlier works that attracted media attention. Like the last song we heard, this one has also been interpreted by different singers over the years, but we think that Tsai Chin, a senior singer of love ballads from Taiwan, has achieved the best results. At this singer's solo concert in Beijing this August, the song proved so popular that Tsai had to sing it five times over to an insatiable and voluble audience. So let's take a listen to the song, Just Like Your Tenderness, with lyrics and music by Liang Hongzhi.
That was Just Like Your Tenderness. In the 1970s when Liang was still a college student, ballads, and especially campus ballads, were becoming very popular with Chinese students. Just Like Your Tenderness was composed at this time and was released in 1980. Liang found himself an overnight success. For female singers like Tsai Chin and Su Rui who are now both big names in China, it is fair to say that without Liang Hongzhi's contributions, their names would probably have never entered the public consciousness. For people born in the 80s, Tsai Chin and Su Rui's songs may be too far removed chronologically from their own experiences. However these singer's mild melodies greatly affected the nation in what could quite correctly be called an era of ballads back in the 1970s and 80s. The next two songs, Follow Me and Choice, are performed by Su Rui and Tsai Chin respectively. Follow me was composed by Liang in 1985 and was included on Su Rui's first album, which was also the soundtrack for the film Ride the Wrong Car. The song is in fact a duet between Su Rui and Lu Kanping, the director of the film. Today the film is forgotten, but the soundtrack lives on, thanks to the involvement of masters of the ballad such as Liang Hongzhi and Luo Dayou.
We just heard the two songs, Follow Me and Choice. Another female singer that closely connected with Liang Hongzhi is Zheng Yi. In 1993 she made a unique effort by compiling 10 of Liang Hongzhi's songs on to one album, a record issued by the record company Friendly Dogs. Let's listen to the song Mask by Zheng Yi.
You've just been listening to Zheng Yi singing Mask. Liang's style is graceful and quite restrained at times. As a lyricist and songwriter, he never let himself become impassioned or ambitious. Even when sarcasm and indignation seemed to have become the musical norm about ten years ago, and especially in Taiwan, he remained calm and unaffected. Some critics say his love songs resemble modern poems, which are rational and light-hearted, even when he writes of the parting of lovers. And, besides being a composer, Liang has also served as singer, radio host and record company owner. The next song we'll hear is called Read You, as sung by Fei Xiang. The Taiwan based singer first appeared on the mainland in 1987 at the New Year Gala, and conquered the audience with his rendition of Fire in the Winter. After suddenly shooting to fame on the mainland, the singer took the opportunity to present many songs which had already become very popular in Taiwan, including Read You, originally written by Liang Hongzhi for our aforementioned singer Tsai Chin. Let's take a listen.
Beginning in the mid 80s, Liang changed the gender of his song-writing to compose a number of songs for male singers such as Jiang Yuheng and Tam Wing Lun. Throbbing Heart, a song about home sickness, was written for Jiang Yuheng, who established a style of mainly singing melancholy love songs.
That was Throbbing Heart, another song composed by Liang Hongzhi. In 1988 Liang composed another track called Between Dream and Reality for Tam Wing Lun, who was at that time competing with Leslie Cheung for the title of Most Popular Singer in Hong Kong. The song topped the major music chart in Hong Kong for four weeks and similarly helped Tam come out on top in terms of overall popularity. So, let's have a listen to two songs written by Liang for Tam Wing Lun, beginning with Between Dream and Reality, and then moving on to "A Friend Like Me."
How long can signboards survive when wind and rain sweep the streets? How many beloved old songs can you remember? How many true friends do you have in your life? Such lyrics bring nostalgic feelings to many people and can often be heard in various Karaoke bars. For over two decades, Liang Hongzhi proved himself to be part of the mainstay of Taiwan's pop music scene. The composer himself once said that he had no regrets in his life, as he'd written so many songs and done everything that he wanted. We'll leave you today with a track called You Are Transparent, as sung by Leslie Cheung, another person lost to the pop world after his suicide two years ago.
And with that we come to the end of today's show. Any comments and suggestions are welcome. You can write to us at English Service, China Radio International, Beijing, China. The postal code is 100040. Our email address is chinabeat@crifm.com. You can also logon to our website at www.crienglish.com to have an online listen to our programs.

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