Dick Lee

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Dick Lee
李炳文
Born
Richard Lee Peng Boon

(1956-08-24) 24 August 1956 (age 66)
EducationSt. Joseph's Institution
Alma materHarrow School of Art
Occupation(s)Singer, composer, songwriter, playwright, film director
Years active1971–present
Spouse
(m. 1992; div. 1997)
Parents
  • Lee Kip Lee (father)
  • Elizabeth Tan (mother)
AwardsCultural Medallion
Musical career
GenresPop music, Cantopop, musical theatre
Instrument(s)Piano
Chinese name
Chinese李炳文
Websitewww.dicklee.com.sg

Richard Lee Peng Boon,[1] (born 24 August 1956) professionally known as Dick Lee, is a Singaporean singer-songwriter, playwright and film director. Lee was awarded the Cultural Medallion, Singapore's pinnacle arts award, for music in 2005.

Early life[edit]

Lee was born to a Peranakan father, Lee Kip Lee, (who wrote for The Straits Times) and his wife, Elizabeth Tan.[1] He was the eldest child in the family of five,[1] with three brothers and a sister (now deceased). He received his early education at St. Michael's School (now SJI Junior) and his secondary education at St. Joseph's Institution.

Musical career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Lee started his career in 1971 at the age of fifteen when he joined when he the group Harmony as a pianist and participated in several talent contests with the group.[2] He soon left the group and formed his own group, Dick and the Gang, with his brothers.[2] He would performed on stage both as a group or on his own.[2] His first album, Life Story, featuring his own compositions, was released in 1974.[2]

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Lee championed the use of Asian elements in pop music. His pioneering album, Life in the Lion City (1984), won acclaim. But the album that achieved regional prominence for him was The Mad Chinaman, released in 1989,

Lee won several awards in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan for these early artistic efforts.

In addition to his recordings, in 1983, he co-produced and contributed keyboards to Zircon Lounge's debut album Regal Vigour.[3]

1990s[edit]

In 1990, Lee moved to Japan where he continued to develop the new Asian identity through his solo work, as well as collaborations with top Asian artistes such as Tracy Huang, Sandy Lam and Japanese group Zoo. He has written numerous songs for top singing talents in Asia.

Transit Lounge, released by Sony, won both critical and music lovers' praise during the same time that he was regional vice-president of Artiste and Repertoire for Sony Music Asia, based in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2000. Everything, released in November 2000 also by Sony Music, features a collection of his works written since the 1970s. In December 2001, Lee and his friend Leonard T contributed a song to a charity CD – Love Is The Answer For Kids With Aids, KK Outreach for Kids Fund. The song "It All Begins With Love" is aired frequently on Singapore's radio stations.

Lee has written many staged musicals including Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991), Kampong Amber (1994), Sing to the Dawn (1996), Hotpants (1997), Jacky Cheung's acclaimed Snow.Wolf.Lake (1997), Nagraland (1992), Puteri Gunung Ledang (2006) and P. Ramlee (2007). Since 1998, Lee has been the Associate Artiste Director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre.

2000s[edit]

In 2000, Lee composed the songs to the musical of Phua Chu Kang, a highly popular sitcom, for the Singapore President's Star Charity Drive. Produced and broadcast by Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS), the musical raised over a record-setting $2 million.

In 2002, he wrote and co-directed his first dance musical re:MIX for Singapore Repertory Theatre Young Company (SRT Young Company), as well as a specially commissioned work, Forbidden City: Portrait of An Empress, one of the highlights of Singapore's prestigious new cultural centre, The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay opening festival in October that year and a popular re-run in September 2003, and again in 2006. It was directed by Steven Dexter and will go on a world tour in 2008, with the first stop being London's West End.

Lee was appointed the Creative Director for Singapore's 2002 National Day Parade. Coincidentally, his song "We Will Get There" was selected to be 2002 theme song for the parade.[4] Stefanie Sun performed the song and also included it in her own top-selling album. This was his second National Day theme song, having written "Home", performed by Kit Chan, in 1998.

In 2003, he penned the English lyrics of "Treasure The World", the image song of J-ASEAN campaign by The Japan Foundation. Artistes from Japan and 10 ASEAN countries recorded this song for the campaign in English and their respective native languages. In July 2003, Lee was awarded the Fukuoka Arts and Culture Prize, an award by the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize committee to recognise an individual's substantial contributions to the arts scene in Asia.

Lee wrote an autobiography, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman, in 2004.

In 2004, he appeared on Singapore Idol as a judge alongside fellow Singaporeans Florence Lian and Ken Lim. He returned as a judge for the second and third seasons in 2006 and 2009.

On 17 and 18 December 2004, Lee held a 30th anniversary concert, titled Life Stories at the Kallang Theatre. Guest stars included Singapore Idol winner Taufik Batisah and runner up Sylvester Sim, Kumar, ex-wife Jacintha, Koh Chieng Mun, Hossan Leong, and others.

In 2005, Lee was awarded the Cultural Medallion for music.[5]

In 2009, he penned the theme song for the APEC Singapore 2009 summit which was performed in front of world leaders such as Barack Obama by Kit Chan during the Singapore Evening at the APEC Singapore 2009 summit on 14 November 2009 at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. He was also the director of the 30-minute musical extravaganza involving 376 Singaporean artistes in a concert extravaganza enhanced by multimedia projections.[6]

In 2010, Lee was the Creative Director of Singapore's 44th National Day Parade.

In 2011, Lee returned with The Adventures of the Mad China man, a concert, and Beauty Kings, an original comedy play.[7]

In 2012, Lee also performed — and was a character — in TheatreWorksNational Broadway Company production for the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay's 10th anniversary celebrations.

In 2013, Lee returned to musicals by composing the 90-minute LightSeeker, which premiered at Resorts World Sentosa. He was also named a Steinway Artist and became Creative Director of the revamped Rediffusion Singapore radio station.[8]

In 2014, Lee held a concert, Dick Lee: Celebrating 40 Years In Music, at the Drama Centre.[9] In the same year, a revamped version of his 1997 musical Hotpants was restaged.[10] After his third stint as National Day Parade's Creative Director, Lee will return to helm 2015's golden jubilee show; and he has been tasked to write the next big National Day song.[11]

In 2015, Lee was the creative director of Singapore 50th National Day Parade, where he composed the NDP theme song "Our Singapore", performed by JJ Lin.

In 2017, Lee made his directorial debut with the autobiographical musical film, Wonder Boy.

Fashion career[edit]

Having studied fashion design at Harrow School of Art in London, Lee's interest in fashion began at 16 when he designed for his mother's boutique Midteen.

He designed his own labels for his boutique Ping Pong, as well as for Hemispheres, the first young designer store he set up with a partner.[12]

Other forays in the fashion world include Display Director for Tangs departmental store in 1984, fashion editor of Female magazine in 1986 and one of the founders of the Society of Designing Arts, which spearheaded the introduction of Singapore designers to the local fashion market.[13]

From 1982 to 1990, Lee also ran his own event company Runway Productions, which specialised in fashion and tourism events.

Lee chaired the 2011 Audi Fashion Festival,[13] and in 2014, he was named brand ambassador for Audi Singapore.[14]

Business career[edit]

In 1991, Lee created the Boom Boom Room, a drag cabaret venue at Bugis Street, featuring drag comedian Kumar and other drag queens.[15] In 2000, Boom Boom Room moved to Far East Square when Bugis Street underwent redevelopment.[15] It closed eventually in 2004.[15] In 2021, Lee recreated the Boom Boom Room for a limited run at Marina Bay Sands' Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore.[15]

In 2012, Lee opened MAD (Modern Asian Diner) in Singapore. It is a 5-way partnership with 4 other homegrown local companies namely Tung Lok group, Bakerzin, Bar Stories and Top Wines at The Grandstand located at Bukit Timah, Singapore.[16] It closed in March 2014.[17] Lee opened pancake joint Slappy Cakes, another joint venture by Lee, in a portion of the original space used by MAD.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Lee is a Roman Catholic. In 1992, Lee married jazz singer Jacintha Abisheganaden.[18] They divorced in 1997 .[18]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Album details
1974 Life Story
1984 Life in the Lion City

Suriram
Bumboat!
Return To Beauty World

1985 Fried Rice Paradise
1986 The Songs From Long Ago
1988 Connections
1989 The Mad Chinaman

When I Play

1990 Asiamajor
1991 Orientalism
1993 The Year of The Monkey

Peace Life Love
Life Story
Hong Kong Rhapsody

1994 Compass
1995 Secret Island
1996 Singapop
1999 Transit Lounge
2000 Everything
2003 Rice
2004 Life (English compilation album)
2004 Stories (Chinese compilation album)
2010 Life Deluxe
2014 40th Anniversary Collection

Singles[edit]

Title Year Album
"Internationaland" 1979 Life in the Lion City

Awards[edit]

Year Award Work Ref
1995 The Perfect 10 Music Achievement Award
for outstanding contribution in the Singapore music scene

Hong Kong Film Award for Best Original Film Song for "The Search of My Life", the theme song for the film He's a Woman, She's a Man

1998 Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) Awards for Top Local English Pop Song and Top Local Composer of the Year[19]
1999 Hong Kong Film Award for Best Original Film Song for the theme song of City of Glass

Compass Awards for Artiste Excellence, Top Local Chinese Pop Song and Top Local Composer of the Year[19]

2000 Compass Award for Top Local Composer of the Year[19]
2001 Compass Award for Top Local Composer of the Year[19]
2003 Fukuoka Asian Culture Awards: Arts Award
2004 Compass Award for Best Malay Pop Song
2005 Cultural Medallion Award [5]
2006 Compass Award for Top Local Composer of the Year
2013 Compass Award for Top Local English Pop Song ("Home")[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "The Music, Madness and Magic of Dick Lee". biblioasia.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d Kong, Lily (June 1996). "Popular Music in Singapore: Exploring Local Cultures, Global Resources, and Regional Identities". Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 14 (3): 278. doi:10.1068/d140273. ISSN 0263-7758.
  3. ^ Singh, Surej (27 September 2021). "Tributes paid to Singaporean DJ and musician Chris Ho, who has died". NME. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  4. ^ "'There's something about singing together': 12 fun facts and stories behind our national songs". CNA. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  5. ^ a b Wee, Desmond (22 October 2005). "Jack Neo, Dick Lee win top arts honour". The Straits Times. p. 1.
  6. ^ "Singapore Evening at The Esplanade – A showcase of Singapore's unique culture and creative talents". Archived from the original on 15 December 2019. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
  7. ^ Dick Lee's Fantastic Entertainment Archived 22 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Martin, Mayo (11 September 2013). "Dick Lee back in musical limelight with LightSeeker". MediaCorp. TODAY. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  9. ^ Cheong, Suk Wai (1 September 2014). "Concert review: Dick Lee takes jibes at Singapore but also reaffirms affection for country". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  10. ^ Ting, Lisabel (16 August 2014). "Theatre review: Dick Lee's revamped Hotpants is tighter and funkier". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  11. ^ Chow, Jermyn (11 August 2014). "Dick Lee to write 'the next Home' for S'pore's 50th NDP". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Dick Lee back in fashion". AsiaOne. 23 March 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  13. ^ a b Jufri, Zaki (19 November 2010). "Dick Lee to chair 2011 Audi Fashion Festival". SG Magazine Online. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  14. ^ Tay, Cheryl (14 February 2015). "Dick Lee: The music man's defining presence". The Straits Times. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d "Drag, art and history come together at Boom Boom Room". sg.style.yahoo.com. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
  16. ^ "Modern Asian Diner Inspired by Dick Lee's Mad Chinaman | SENATUS Magazine". SENATUS. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  17. ^ a b Migration (26 April 2015). "The hit and miss of celebrity restaurants | The Straits Times". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  18. ^ a b Oorjitham, Santha (31 January 1997). "Final Curtain for Dick and Ja". Asiaweek. Archived from the original on 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  19. ^ a b c d e Shetty, Deepika (30 September 2013). "Dick Lee wins Compass prize for Home - 15 years after it was written". The Straits Times. Retrieved 7 March 2017.

External links[edit]