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2008-03-30 In Memory of Leslie Cheung
    2008-03-30 17:32:11     CRIENGLISH.com
Hello and welcome to another edition of China Beat. This is Xiao Hua. On April 1st five years ago, the Asian entertainment industry and Chinese community world-wide were shocked by the death of Hong Kong singer, actor Leslie Cheung, who was also known by his Chinese name, Zhang Guorong. As one of Asia's most popular performers and intriguing personalities, Leslie Cheung is a legend of Hong Kong showbiz whose color never faded. Dearly nicknamed as elder brother by his friends and his fans, Cheung was considered as a phenomena of Hong Kong who contributed to the founding of the booming Cantopop scene, and who combined a hugely successful film and music career. So with today's China Beat, we will pay tribute to this legendary figure of artistic talents and smoldering charisma, Leslie Cheung.

A poster of late Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung. [Photo: tupian369.com]

Leslie Cheung was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong. At an early age, he was sent to England as a boarder at Eccles Hall School and worked as a bartender at his relatives' restaurant and sang during the weekends. In 1977 after Leslie returned to Hong Kong, he took part in the Asian Music Contest held by Rediffusion Television (RTV) and won second prize by singing Don McLean's American Pie. Later on, he signed a contract with RTV, the former of Asia Television Limited and began his career in the entertainment industry.

The early days of Leslie Cheung's career were not easy. He was once booed off the stage during a public performance, and his first two albums didn't sell well either. In 1982, Cheung joined Capital Artists upon the end of his contract with RTV. One year later, he released his first hit song, "The Wind Blows On". In 1984, he released his first top ten hit song "Monica", which became the first so-called "fast" song that won the Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs Award by Radio Television Hong Kong. "Monica" became representative of a new genre of Hong Kong music in the mid 1980s. Fans began to demand fast and energetic Cantopop songs that would be suitable for both dancing and listening.

In 1986, Leslie Cheung joined Cinepoly Records Hong Kong and released the album Summer Romance, which turned out to be the Best Selling CD of the Year. While working with Cinepoly Records, Cheung reached his fame as one of the top two Cantopop idols along with Allen Tam. In 1988, Cheung composed one of his most famous hits "Silence is Golden".

During years with Cinepoly Records, Leslie Cheung released quite some memorable albums like Hot Summer, Virgin Snow, Final Encounter, and Salute. Salute was the first non-profit album released by a superstar in Hong Kong music history that only had songs performed originally by other singers. Leslie once said Salute was his homage to music. He donated all the proceeds from the sales of Salute to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and was named the Leslie Cheung Memorial Scholarship after his death.

However, as the popularity of Leslie Cheung and Allen Tam rose, fans of these two stars became increasingly hostile to each other, starting a long-standing conflict that soon put heavy pressure on both singers. In 1988, Alan Tam publicly quit all pop music award ceremonies. In the following year, Cheung announced his intention to retire from his music career as a singer. As a farewell to his music lovers, Cheung held a retirement concert series that ran for 33 consecutive nights at Hong Kong Coliseum and set a record in the Cantopop history.

As Leslie faded from his music stage, his film career started to rocket. His acting talent was recognized early when he starred in the movie On Trial, which won him the nomination for Hong Kong Film Awards' Best Supporting Actor. Mid-80s to mid-90s was a golden age in Hong Kong's movie industry during which Leslie Cheung also ripened with his acting skills. In 1992's historical masterpiece Farewell My Concubine, Cheung acted as Cheng Dieyi, a Beijing opera artist who reaches fame with his exquisite performances of female roles. Farewell My Concubine is the first Chinese film to have won the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival. It also won more than twenty other film awards including a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography. Cheung's performance in the film was a giant leap in his film career and won him international fame as a film star. The song we are listening to is the theme of the Movie, Bygone Love, performed by Leslie Cheung.

Although Cheung quit his career as a pop singer from 1989 to 1995, he continued his music ambition as a composer. He composed more than ten songs during that time. In 1993, he won Best Original Movie Song Award from Golden Horse Film Festival for the theme song Red Cheek, White Hair to the movie The Bride with White Hair. In 1995, he composed all three theme songs for the film The Phantom Lover. As a composer, Cheung won four nominations for Best Original Movie Song Award at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards and two nominations for Best Original Film Song at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Cuddle With Deep Love is the theme to The Phantom Lover, which Leslie performed in a duet with renowned Taiwan soprano, Winnie Hsin.

In 1995, Cheung signed a contract with Rock Records, returning to music as a singer. With this record label, Cheung released possibly his most highly acclaimed album, Red. Red was a fusion album, mixing smooth jazz, R&B, trip hop, etc., into Cantopop, forming a consistent unique style. Cheung worked since then on cutting-edge music as well as Cantopop, his new music style being markedly different from before his earlier retirement. The song we are listening to is the title track of the album, Red, through which Cheung presented another side of him in his music creation.

In 2000, Leslie Cheung released another smash hit Big Heat. In this album, he composed the song I, which we are hearing now. This song is believed to be the self-statement of Cheung himself. In the same year, he was awarded the Golden Needle award, a lifetime achievement award in Cantopop music; and had been assigned as the "Music Ambassador" of Composers And Authors Society of Hong Kong until his death.

In 2000, Leslie Cheung held his last concert series, Passion Tour. For the first time, Cheung worked as the art director as well as the singer for the concert. Passion Tour was highly welcomed in Japan and made Cheung hold 10 concerts there. Together with World Tour 97 concerts, Cheung set a record of foreign artists of holding 16 concerts in Japan. In China, Cheung set a record yet to be broken by holding two consecutive night concerts in Shanghai Stadium. He was also awarded the "Grand Salute Award" by Mingpao Weekly and "Music Salute Award" from Chinese Pop Music Media Association for his work in Passion Tour.

April 1st, 2003 is the day when 46-year-old Leslie Cheung halted his steps on his music journey. He leapt from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong Island. He left a suicide note saying that he had been suffering from depression.

As one of the most popular performers in Asia, Cheung's death shocked the Asian entertainment industry and Chinese community world-wide. Tens of thousands, including celebrities and other fans, from China, Japan, Southeast Asia, the United States and Canada attended Cheung's memorial service. For almost one month, Cheung's death dominated newspaper headlines in Hong Kong and his songs were constantly on the air. His last album Everything Follows the Wind was released three months after his death.

For thousands of his music lovers, Leslie Cheung is like a gentle breeze that has freshened up their worlds with his own stories; though it was out of each one's expectation that it extended to a tragic ending. After all, no matte how you remember Leslie Cheung, his crooning ballads and seductive insolence will definitely be a lingering touch in your heart. To complete our tribute to this legendary artist, here we play another song by Leslie Cheung, 'The Wind Blows On'. This is Xiao Hua from Beijing. Bye for now.


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