Recently, there has been a lot of talk about “the good old days” of Cantopop and how the HK music industry has changed so much from its glory days back in the 1980s and 1990s. Coincidentally, I was listening to my Ipod yesterday and a classic song from the 80s came up that suddenly made me feel very nostalgic. It’s a song I love and I’ve listened to it so many times over the past several decades that I practically have the lyrics memorized by now. Given how badly the HK music industry has deteriorated in recent years, listening to this song again made me feel particularly nostalgic, to the point that I went and pulled the music video for the song so I could re-watch it and remember those days when we truly had such great talent in the music industry.
The song is called 地球大合唱 which is loosely translated into English as “The Earth Sings in Chorus”. Those of you who grew up in the 80s like I did might remember this song (it’s hard to forget actually given what a big hit it was back then) – but for the benefit of those who are not familiar with this song, let me give a little bit of background….
地球大合唱 was a special charity song that TVB produced back in 1987 to commemorate their 20th anniversary. For such an important song, TVB invited renowned composer Joseph Koo (顧嘉煇) and lyricist Richard Lam (林振強) to write the song and had many of their ‘contracted’ singers (yes, TVB required all singers to sign contracts with them, even back then) participate in singing it. Well, since practically every singer in HK was ‘contracted’ to TVB in some way back then, they obviously had plenty of choices -- so you can just imagine how many ‘big names’ participated (of course, not every singer was there, as only a portion of the singers participated in the production…but enough ‘big names’ participated to make this song an instant hit when it first came out).
The song was recorded as a special two-sided vinyl record (remember, this was the 80s, so it was the era of cassette tapes, video tapes, and vinyl records, lol) and released in 1987 – all proceeds from sales of the album went to charity. Side one was the actual song (it’s close to 7 minutes long!) and side two consisted of ‘messages of compassion’ from all the singers who participated in the production of the song.
I went ahead and posted a Youtube link to the song below. Note that this is the full song (side A of the original record) plus the ‘messages of compassion’ from the singers (side B) – the song itself is a little under 7 minutes, so for those of you who want to watch the MV only, just watch the first 7 minutes or so (out of the many versions of this song that were posted on Youtube, I chose this particular one because it’s the most complete – the other versions are shorter, but some parts are cut off at the beginning or at the end).
Along with the video, I’ve posted a list of all the artists who participated in the song – both the soloists in the first part as well as the rest of the singers who didn’t get their own segment but got to participate in the chorus. [Sidenote: Obviously, the artists who got to sing solo were the ones who were more popular in the music industry at the time.]
I’m sure many of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s will probably still recognize quite a few of the singers in here, as many of them were still active in the 90s and after 2000s time period (though a few of them already retired or are less active in the music industry nowadays…and a few of them already passed away -- including the song’s famed lyricist Richard Lam).
This song as well as its corresponding MV is indeed a ‘classic’! While I always enjoying listening to the song and watching the MV, it also saddens me sometimes because it’s a reminder once again that the HK music industry will never get back to what it once was. Not only that, we will also never see again the type of UNITY that defined the HK music industry (and the HK entertainment industry as a whole, to some extent) back then. I know I shouldn’t be so negative, but sorry, I can’t help it….
P.S.: As I stated earlier, I often listen to this song without watching the MV and interestingly enough, I’m able to recognize exactly which artist sings which verse. When I think about this, I’m reminded of something that many veteran singers always say: back in the old days, practically every singer had their own distinctive vocals and singing styles, which not only made the singers easily recognizable, but also contributed to a unique, fresh, and strong music industry. Nowadays, most of the newer generation singers sound largely the same, as though they are mimicking each other’s styles rather than coming up with a unique style all their own. I actually can’t help but agree because I’ve actually experienced this myself – when I listen to HK music programs on the radio nowadays and I hear them play one new song after another, I often can’t tell who the artists singing the songs are because many of them sound the same.
P.P.S.: Those who are familiar with the music industries outside of HK might remember that the U.S. and Taiwan also had similar campaigns back in the 80s where the music industry’s biggest names gathered for a charitable cause. In the U.S., over 80 artists gathered together in 1985 to sing “We Are the World” as part of the USA for Africa campaign…that same year, in Taiwan, over 60 artists gathered to sing 明天會更好 (“Tomorrow Will Be Better”). I bring this up because HK’s 地球大合唱 is often compared to both of these charity campaigns, though of course, the HK/TVB version was much smaller scale with less than 40 artists involved (not saying whether that’s good or bad – just a relevant fact that is worth mentioning).
Here’s the MV and the list of singers. How many singers do you recognize????
List of singers (in the order in which they appear):
Soloists: Paula Tsui (徐小鳳), Michael Kwan (關正傑), Anita Mui (梅艷芳), Roman Tam (羅文), Francis Yip (葉麗儀), Jacky Cheung (張學友), Cally Kwong (鄺美雲), Sam Hui (許冠傑), Lui Fong (呂方), Sandy Lam (林憶蓮), Alan Tam (譚詠麟), Eliza Chan (陳潔靈), Sally Yeh (葉蒨文), George Lam (林子祥), Leslie Cheung (張國榮), Kenny Bee (鍾鎮濤), Danny Chan (陳百強), Jenny Tseng (甄妮)
Chorus -- all of the above artists plus the following: Prudence Liew (劉美君), Man Pui Ling (文佩玲), Danny Summer (夏韶聲), Raidas (Chan Tak Cheung 陳德彰 and Wong Yiu Kong 黃耀光), Terence Choi (蔡國權), Albert Au (區瑞強), Tina Lau (劉天蘭), Teresa Cheung (張德蘭), Lowell Lo (盧冠廷), Tat Ming Pair 達明一派 (Anthony Wong 黃耀明 and Tats Lau 劉以達), Agnes Chiang (蔣麗萍), Agnes Chan (陳美齡), Alex To (杜德偉), Sara Lee (李麗蕊), Samantha Lam (林志美), Tai Chi band (Patrick Lui 雷有暉 and Albert Lui 雷有曜), Nnadia Chan (陳松齡), Alvin Kwok (郭小霖), Annabelle Louie (雷安娜), Priscilla Chan (陳慧嫻).
[Note that George Lam and Alan Tam weren’t actually present during the taping of the MV, but they were present during the actual recording of the song, so their lines were incorporated into the MV as well].