Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Zhou Xuan | Golden Melodies

Zhou Xian


CD 1 reupped again on 2/17/2015 by special request, here.

CD 2 reupped again on 2/17/2015 by special request, here.

[Originally posted on May 25, 2011.] 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. [2/17/2015 update: Last time I was there, this store was gone.] 

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):

2 comments:

ceintsdebakelite said...

If you're interested in Zhou Xuan, I posted yesterday one of her recordings on my blog, devoted to old 78rpm records, the song is called 襟上一朵花, you can listen to it here : http://ceintsdebakelite.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/zhou-xuan/

David Wyatt said...

Time to say a big thank you for this double-CD of Zhou Xuan. For me she has the perfect Chinese voice, the exact image of what Chinese singing 'should' sound like - at once girlish and sophisticated. And the music is a great mix of traditional-sounding pieces (with a western overlay perhaps) and Gershwin-influenced Hollywood-style songs, which I must say swing wildly from wonderful to the drippiest of easy-listening (but then I'm no big fan of the Great Age of Musicals!). All in all though this was a joy: I don't listen to much Chinese music as I haven't got to grips with its foreign-ness; but this is a marvellously approachable way in. Thank you!!