I found this amazing 2-CD set at the Flushing Mall in Queens in a smallish DVD/CD shop that I used to frequent for its Hong Kong films. They've since decimated their HK film selection and replaced them with Hollywood blockbusters. I had no idea who the singer was, but the photo looked sufficiently old to lead me to suspect this might be something in the Shanghai Lounge Divas realm. I was right: The singer, Zhou Xuan is included in that mix, though it's doubtful she ever sang in a lounge, at least not after becoming a superstar actress in the late 1930s.
Born Su Pu (蘇璞) on August 1, 1918, Zhou Xuan (周璇) was sold by a family member when she was three years old and later adopted by the Zhou family, who gave her her last name. Her first name, Xuan, which she took on herself when she began performing as a teenager, means "jade." Her performance in Street Angel in 1937 made her an overnight star. (It's on DVD with English subtitles; you should be able to either Netflix it or find it in your local Chinatown.)
Though she recorded one of the most famous songs of the era ("Shanghai Nights"), her life was not improved by stardom. She suffered numerous breakdowns, was institutionalized for brief periods, and finally, at age 39, died in a mental asylum.
A scene from Street Angel, including her infinitely popular song, "Wandering Songstress" (which begins about a minute or so into this clip):
Soon after I moved to New York City in 1997 I began to notice that bodegas run by people from around the world sometimes stocked CDs and DVDs of music and film from the countries they had come from.
The music I've collected from these bodegas can almost never be found in the "World Music" sections of the few remaining places to buy CDs in the U.S.; nor, for that matter on iTunes (or cheapo MP3 sites like Soundike).
If you are an artist or publisher and do not want your music here, just let me know and I'll remove it.