By Jocelle Koh
Chinese-American pop icon Coco Lee 李玟 has passed away after a lengthy battle with depression at age 48. The news was broken by her sister Nancy, who shared that Lee was found unconscious at home due to a suicide attempt on the 2nd of July and passed on the 5th after unsuccessful resuscitation attempts at the hospital.
Known as one of the earliest representations of Asian artists in the West, Lee would have celebrated her 30th year in the music industry this year after debuting in 1994; boasting a stellar career that has seen her celebrated globally for her effortlessly melismatic vocals that saw her hopping between R&B ballads, dance tracks and often incorporating her east-meets-west heritage in her sound.
Lee made waves ever since she entered the Hong Kong scene with her versatile, energetic vocals, sensual and lively dancing style and dynamic world-class stage presence. In 1996, she released her legendary eponymous album ‘Coco Lee’ which quickly became the best-selling record in the Asia region that year.
Lee was one of the first effectively bilingual artists who released bombastic records effortlessly in both English and Mandarin, boasting hits in both languages such as “Di Da Di” (1998) and “Do You Want My Love” (1999).
She is also the first Chinese artist to perform at the Oscars, having done so at the 73rd Oscars in 2001, showing off her lilting vocals performing “A Love Before Time” from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which was nominated for the Best Original Song that year.
Always maintaining a positive outlook and lauded for her immense professionalism as an artist, Lee continued to stay relevant throughout her career, returning to the stage taking part in hit reality show I Am Singer 我是歌手 in 2016 after a bout of bronchitis in 2014.
She continued to wow audiences with her vibrant persona, impeccable work ethic and ability to make any song her own, going on to win the competition that year, and releasing a slew of sleek pop tracks in recent years that continued to set the bar and show off her iconic vocals such as EDM track “Playboy”(2022) and disco-inspired “TRAGIC”(2023).
Even till the end, Lee remained effervescent; radiant; iconic. Thank you for breaking boundaries throughout your career and always envisioning a culturally diverse future. You will be missed, but your legacy speaks for itself, and will continue to through those you have inspired. Rest in peace Coco.
Translation of official statement
To all the fans and friends who cherish CoCo Lee:
With a heavy heart filled with deep sorrow, we bring you the devastating news: Several years ago, CoCo unfortunately began suffering from depression. After a long battle against this illness, her condition took a sudden turn for the worse. On July 2nd, she tragically took her own life at home. Despite efforts by the medical team to save and treat her, she remained unconscious and, ultimately passed away on the 5th of July.
2023 was meant to mark CoCo’s 30th anniversary in the music industry. Over the past 29 years, she not only brought us endless joy and surprises through her powerful songs and energetic performances but also dedicated herself to expanding the horizons for Chinese artists in the international music scene. She consistently strived to shine for the Chinese community, and we are proud of her.
As CoCo’s family, we are immensely grateful and honored to have had such an outstanding and remarkable sister. We thank the heavens for blessing us with such a kind-hearted angel. We hope she has found a happier place now, free from the torment of depression. We firmly believe that the heavens will bestow upon her the best arrangements! Our greatest responsibility now is to take good care of our elderly mother. We hope you will all pray for her and provide us with the space and time to heal our wounds!
Lastly, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the medical staff who made every effort to rescue and care for CoCo throughout the journey. Additionally, we hope that apart from cherishing the memory of CoCo, you will also share her iconic radiant smile, genuine kindness, and spread love and kindness to everyone around you. Let us continue CoCo’s wish – to make everyone around her feel her love and happiness.
Although CoCo’s time on this earth was brief, her radiance will forever remain immortal!