Beloved diva Coco Lee remembered for her music as a proud Chinese
Published: Jul 07, 2023 12:37 AM
Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Xiangya/Global Times

 On Wednesday night, my browsing session was interrupted by a series of links shared by my friends that carried the startling news of Coco Lee's passing. Initially met with skepticism, as fake news has become all too common, I opened Sina Weibo and saw the hashtag "Coco Lee has died" dominating the trending list. A statement released by Coco's sister proved that the radiant diva who had accompanied our lives for decades had truly left us due to depression.

The news of Coco's unexpected departure took Sina Weibo by storm, with one related hashtag, "Please tell me it's fake news," eliciting tens of thousands of heartfelt comments. Many Sina Weibo users expressed their disbelief and extended their condolences, with one comment posted Thursday reading, "It has been a night and a morning, but I still cannot accept the truth."

Beyond Sina Weibo, the news of Coco's passing spread rapidly through WeChat groups, where many friends and acquaintances shared their deep sadness and disbelief. In one of my friend's WeChat Moments, a poignant message was posted, "Your smile was just your protective coloring." Memories of her iconic songs such as "From Today Until Forever" and "A Love Before Time," flooded discussions, as one friend wrote on WeChat Moments, "It feels just like yesterday when I watched the Lotus Lantern and listened to her sing '365 Days of Missing You.' It's a painful night for all of us who loved Coco."

For many individuals born in the 1980s and 1990s, including myself, Coco's beautiful voice and lively performances accompanied us through the years. 

Her rendition of "365 Days of Missing You" for the animated film Lotus Lantern, adapted from a Chinese fairy tale, left an indelible mark in our memory. 

One of her most widely recognized achievements was her breaking into the international market. She was invited to voice Disney heroine Mulan in the Putonghua version of Mulan, released in 1998. Her rendition of the song "A Love Before Time" for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon earned her a nomination for Best Original Song at the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001, making her the first Chinese singer to perform at the Oscars. 

Besides her "international" image as an entertainer, Coco always took pride in being Chinese. On numerous occasions, such as during concerts or on social media, she announced, "I am Chinese and am forever proud!"

She also encouraged more Chinese people like her to strive hard and take a place on the global stage. 

Coco's sister Nancy said in a statement, "Coco is also known to have worked tirelessly to open up a new world for Chinese singers in the international music scene, and she went all out to shine for the Chinese. We are proud of her!"

Behind her dazzling and energetic stage presence, little did we know that she faced her own battles. 

It wasn't until she revealed it in a heartfelt Sina Weibo post in February that we discovered she was born with a defect in her left leg and had been relying solely on her right leg to dance for years. She would experience pain in her legs after every performance. In October 2022, during dance practice, she re-injured her leg, leading to pelvic and thigh surgery.

Coco's last Sina Weibo post, published on May 20, promoted her latest single "Battle Song." The lyrics, "To live needs to face many obstacles and pains; Be brave to challenge and pursue; You are the warrior." It reads like a reflection of her own journey.

On the day she chose to end her life, Coco sent a heartfelt 40-second voice message to her devoted supporters, expressing gratitude for their love and support. "I will try to keep striving," she said in the message, but, tragically, she couldn't overcome her inner demons. 

Psychiatrists warn of "hidden depression," also called "smiling depression" or "concealed depression." Patients show characteristics that deviate from the traditional understanding of depression, as they may not display the typical signs of a gloomy or tearful demeanor. Instead, they habitually mask their true emotions, possibly as a psychological defense mechanism. We cannot fathom the extent of Coco's pain or the tremendous efforts she made to persevere. 

It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to a remarkable artist whose talent touched the lives of many. Coco Lee's legacy will endure, reminding us of the power of music and the indomitable spirit that she embodied. May she find eternal peace, as her voice will continue to resonate in the hearts of those who loved her.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.