Fifty years ago when I was nine, my parents gave me their record collection – one hundred and fifty 78s – and their 1947 electric record player, that ONLY played 78s. They did me huge favour – actually TWO.
The first was to awaken in me an interest in music that still lives – and the second was that until I managed to modify the machine using Heath Robinson methods, I could only collect 78s.
Thus, during the first couple of years of the Sixties, I grew to understand and appreciate the popular music of the PAST. And armed with this knowledge, when the Sixties REALLY got going, I was able to relate to it from a far WIDER viewpoint than my peers.
Today, I have expanded their one hundred and fifty shellac discs to nearly five THOUSAND records, audio-tapes, video-tapes and disks. And I recently completed a two-year project, during which I uploaded over one thousand, seven hundred pieces onto YouTube.
Not wishing the collection I had busted my ARSE over, for fifty years, to be lost after my demise – I needed to SHARE this treasure chest. And with YouTube, I have managed to do just that – currently with over TWENTY MILLION people, all over the World.
And one of those gems was this monograph’s titular piece – sung in CHINESE.
When I first heard it – at nine – I thought it was a bright, breezy, jolly piece, with a deceptively complex arrangement.
Only later – as I grew up – did I begin to wonder about it. MISS HUE Lee? Singing Rose, Rose, I love you? Surely the woman must be GAY?
But now, the mystery is solved.
Firstly, the lady in question is not Hue – pronounced as HUGH. Her name is Chinese and was spelled PHONETICALLY. These days, it is spelled YAO.
And secondly, she is NOT singing Rose, Rose, I love you.
The thing is, many Western lyricists listen out for foreign hits that have a good melody – then write an English-language lyric for it.
This is mutually beneficial for both the original composer – and the new lyricist. BOTH get royalties, if the Western version of the piece is a hit.
However, the task is a tricky one. It is no use the lyricist merely translating the original lyric – they will then have to SHARE the lyric royalties with the original lyricist.
And in any case, a translation is fraught with difficulties. You cannot merely translate the lyric, since it has to SCAN – and RHYME.
Thus, when most foreign songs receive a Western “makeover” – in the form of an American lyric – the new lyric has NOTHING TO DO with the original one.
A famous example is Paul Anka’s homage to Frank Sinatra – “My Way” – which originated from France, but with a lyric TOTALLY unrelated to possibly the most-covered song of all time.
And such was “Rose, Rose, I Love You” – which was originally recorded by Yao Lee (in Mandarin) in 1940.
Its “makeover” was penned by a British lyricist called Wilfred Thomas, who totally CHANGED the original lyric, which was about rose PETALS.
And in 1951 the song was recorded, in English, by a MAN – no less than Frankie Laine. And the success of the number was such that Yao Lee’s original version was re-released alongside it.
However, the Mandarin title would have meant nothing to the Western record-buying public – and anyway, the record company was eager to cash in on Frankie’s hit.
And so, despite Yao Lee’s recording being the Chinese version (written in English as “Méigui méigui wǒ ài nǐ” – or in Mandarin as 玫瑰玫瑰我愛你) it had “Rose, Rose, I Love You” as the title on the label.
And where the composers’ names SHOULD have been it merely said, “Sung In Chinese” – which must have SERIOUSLY pissed off the original composers – music: Lin Mei (which was a pen name for Chen Gexin) and lyrics: Wu Cun ( 林枚, 陳歌辛 and 吳村 – respectively).
Anyhoo – if you would like to HEAR this still-vivacious piece, I am leaving this monograph with a link.
However, it is not MY link. While my upload is fine, after uploading it – I discovered ANOTHER. It is “restored” – and while clean-ups are often DIRE (including some of those done by alleged PROFESSIONALS) throttling the LIFE out of the records – THIS one has been skillfully done.
And since us YouTube uploaders are more interested in spreading good music than acquiring HITS – I give you HIS version…