Here's a great article about one of my favorite singers from the 80s/90s -- Sally Yeh!
Mingpao Exclusive Interview with Sally Yeh: 15 year marriage similar to riding a roller coaster; husband George Lam encourages her return to the music industry
Source: Mingpao Weekly, Issue 2255
Translated by: llwy12
Despite this past year’s JSG Top Ten Awards Ceremony results being heavily criticized by practically the entire nation, there was one particular highlight of the entire show that was welcomed by all audiences – former Canto-pop Queen Sally Yeh (葉蒨文) leading the group BOY’Z and singer/dancer Tat Dik in a special performance of her classic hit “Believe in Yourself” 《信自己》. Not only did her performance cause all the artists present to give her a standing ovation, it also provided HK music fans with a treasured memory.
Entering the year of the Dragon, many former music industry ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ will be returning to the stage to perform for HK music fans – Sally Yeh will be among them! During this exclusive interview with Mingpao, Sally took the opportunity to officially announce that in September of this year, she will be collaborating with Peter Lam’s East Asia Entertainment Group (EA) to hold a concert at HK Coliseum. After her last concert in 2005 (which she collaborated with the HK Philharmonic Orchestra), Sally has been ‘hibernating’ for the past 7 years, rarely appearing at public events – even during the times when rumors about her marriage to singer George Lam being ‘on the rocks’ were especially strong, Sally never bothered to come out and explain or respond to the rumors. This year (2012), HK music fans got the rare opportunity to once again enjoy the Canto-pop Queen’s beautiful voice – not only that, Mingpao Weekly also had the rare opportunity to sit down with Sally and understand on a deeper level her 15 year marriage to George Lam.
Sally Yeh and George Lam married in 1996; in 1998, after the conclusion of their special “George Lam / Sally Yeh Good Luck Concert”《林子祥葉蒨文好氣連場演唱會》, Sally left the music industry temporarily. In 2002, Sally released a new album and in 2004, she held a series of concerts to commemorate her 25th year in the music industry – however, after her concert collaboration with the HK Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005, Sally once again ‘disappeared’ from the music industry. All this time, the outside world thought that Sally had ‘retired’, however during our exclusive interview, Sally expressed that the word ‘retirement’ never once crossed her mind: “Back then [after the 2005 concert], I just felt that it was the right time for me to stop and rest. Perhaps because as I started to get older, my thinking matured and I started to slowly realize that we only have one opportunity to live life – given that reality, I started to think about what I really wanted to do while alive in this world and came to the conclusion that I really wanted to learn more things and enrich my life. I’ve been very lucky all these years to have a career of my own that has enabled me to pursue things that interest me – I really wanted to understand the various relationships between people as well as the complications involved with life in general. These past few years, I’ve read a lot of English books that talk about people and their relationships. I’m very happy that I’ve been able to continually increase my knowledge – these past few years have been very fulfilling and have really helped me to grow as a person.”
50 years old and feeling moved
Throughout the past few years, Sally has continued to receive countless offers from various organizers to perform at shows, so why did she choose to return only this year? Sally unhesitatingly responded that it had to do with her approaching the 50 year old milestone: “Before, a lot of people asked me when I would hold another concert and I would respond to them: ‘Maybe when I turn 50!’ because I thought that if I don’t do it by that age, certain ‘things’ would ‘falter’…haha!” (Falter? Your voice?) “No, my voice could be maintained, however I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to maintain my physical stamina and energy after turning 50. I always tell myself: ‘If I still have vitality and energy by the time I turn 50, I definitely wish to come out and see my friends and fans!’”
During her time away from the industry, Sally had also done much traveling around the world. She expressed that her encounters during these travels were another motivating factor for her return to the industry: “Since I didn’t appear at events much anymore, I thought that perhaps people would have forgotten about me already, but it turns out that wasn’t the case – no matter which country I went to, people seemed to remember me. For example, one time, during my travels to the U.S., I was eating at a very small café in an isolated area, a place where I thought no one knew me, yet people would come up to me and ask: ‘Are you Sally Yeh? Why would you come here to eat? I love listening to you sing! When will you come out and sing for us again?’ When I went to Thailand and Vietnam, it was the same thing! Even when I went out shopping, I would always get asked: ‘When will you sing again?’ At first, I couldn’t believe it – all of them have heard my songs before? They still remember me? I was extremely moved! Since there were people out there who truly wanted to hear me sing again, then I happily obliged!”
Asked whether her husband George Lam supported her decision to return, Sally replied: “Actually, he has been telling me to return for many years already! He always asks me: ‘Why don’t you come out and sing again?’ He has encouraged me all along; every time I watch him perform, I would always feel that I still have a passion for singing – perhaps at that time, I didn’t feel I was ready to return, but now, I’m definitely prepared!” Having been married for 15 years already, how does Sally maintain such a strong relationship with her husband? Hearing this, Sally laughed and asked: “Really? It’s been 15 years already? That long?” after which she replied: “Actually, it’s a bit of a mystery to me! In my opinion, how to go about maintaining a long-lasting relationship with anyone is a mystery in and of itself. The important thing is communication; perhaps for us, we’ve been able to maintain because of our mutual respect for one another – we mutually respect each other’s space, way of thinking, etc. and because we understand each other, we are able to show appreciation and empathy for each other.”
Ups and downs, but no separation
Over the years, Sally has developed a fondness for golf, which slowly turned into a fondness for badminton – asked about her hobbies, Sally immediately interjected: “Right now, my new ‘love’ is Latin dancing!” It is understood that Sally’s husband George does not share the same hobbies, so he never accompanies her to them: “Yes, that’s true! We each have our own hobbies and interests – he has his, I have mine – there’s no point in forcing them together! If there are things we can do together, we do it, but if there aren’t, then we pursue our individual interests.” Because Sally and George don’t share the same interests or hobbies, there have been many times over the years where rumors have surfaced about problems with their marriage. Asked directly about this, Sally graciously answered: “I admit that the rumors did affect me a little at first -- as a Buddhist, I asked a spiritual teacher in the past how I could go about changing what people thought about me. He replied: ‘You’re wrong to think that way! Don’t be concerned about trying to change other people’s way of thinking – instead, concentrate on controlling your own thoughts.’ That’s a good thing!” (When you heard the rumors at first, were you upset?) “Of course! Anyone hearing such things would be unhappy, but at least now, I don’t let the reports affect me. I have no way of controlling what other people think, so as long as I feel it’s not important, then I let it go. Responding to the rumors and trying to clarify would only make things worse, as it would give them [the tabloids] the opportunity to write even more stuff.”
Asked whether she experienced many ups and downs in her 15 year marriage, Sally candidly replied: “Yes! A lot! Our relationship is like a roller coaster, so there would be ups and downs – actually, many people’s relationships are like this. Of course, my temper has a bit to do with it as well – I’m a bit tempermental, emotional, and have a strong personality – especially working in this industry, we are bound to experience huge fluctuations emotionally, but….that’s what makes it fun! Haha!” (Ever encountered marriage crisis?) “Crisis? Risk? Every marriage has risk! I once heard about a survey that said for every marriage, there’s a 50% chance that the couple will remain together in the end – so that means for every marriage, there is an equal chance of separating or remaining together. I actually think it’s quite funny! To be honest, every relationship will have fluctuations.” (In the worse case scenario, were there ever any thoughts of separating?) “Didn’t go into that! Didn’t go into that conversation! Relationships are really about having affinity – if you have affinity with a person, then you will continue to be together, if there’s no affinity, then there isn’t. Of course, you still have to work hard at it and be willing to invest time – in the end, it depends on which path you want to take.” With that said, is Sally satisfied with her marriage at this period of her life? “I’m satisfied with everything! Actually, I’m the type who is easily satisfied – let me have a good sleep and I’ll be happy with anything!”
Appearing at the JSG awards ceremony again after so many years, Sally admits that she empathizes with the younger generation artists: “I’m happy that I no longer have to sit up there facing the audiences! I remember in the past when we attended the awards at the HK Coliseum – I would sit there nervous and cold, holding a warm water pouch and tissues, wishing I were at home! I also remember clearly how I would stress about whether I’d get a particular award or not. So when I see the younger generation artists now, I can definitely understand what they are going through.”
With regard to the Gold Song Gold award being given to Raymond Lam and causing heavy criticism, Sally replied: “Is Raymond Lam not popular? I thought Raymond Lam was very popular because back in the dressing room, people were repeatedly saying how popular he was.” (Have you heard the song 《Chok》?) “《Chok》? No! But I haven’t listened to any songs at all! Ha! In terms of the current generation artists, I admire Hins Cheung the most. Every awards show has different judges and criteria – the person who chose Raymond Lam must have done so because he/she really likes him. Back in the day, when I received the ‘Most Popular Female Singer’ award, I’m sure there were people who opposed because the other female artists – such as Anita Mui, Sandy Lam, Faye Wong, Sammi Cheng – were just as popular during that time as well. My thought is that there is only 1 award, so if you don’t receive it, don’t be discouraged – just because you don’t get the award does not mean you are not popular!”
George Lam ‘hides’ the good songs
EA has shown interest in working with Sally on releasing a new album this year, however she insists that she won’t come out with a new album until she has a good song for it. Many years ago, George Lam wrote the song 《零時十分》[“Ten After Midnight”] for Sally, which shot her to fame – with the advantage of being married to George now, why doesn’t Sally just have him write her a good song? Is it because of the ‘rumor’ that back in those days, George was only able to write good songs because he was unhappy [with his previous relationship] and now that he is married, all his inspiration is gone? Sally confidently replied: “No! That’s wrong! Actually, many years ago, I had discussed the same matter with Eric Kwok – that time, Eric had asked whether George is able to write songs any time he wanted to or whether he needs to be in a certain mood (for example, happy or sad). The answer is that George can write songs any time he wants – in fact, he has written many songs throughout the past couple years, it’s just that he has them ‘hidden’ somewhere. Why doesn’t he let me sing those songs he wrote? Because sometimes, when I listen to the song, I’ll tell him: ‘Hm, that song is not too good!’ – he’s probably mad so he won’t let me sing it, haha! But recently, he’s been working on re-writing a song that someone else sang before and it really took me by surprise because the song is really really good!” With the way Sally and George interact, how could this couple possibly be going through marriage problems?