HONG KONG: Fans, friends and family of the late singer and songwriter Coco Lee gathered for her funeral in Hong Kong today, paying respects to the Hong Kong-born American star who died at age 48 after a career spanning three decades.
Outside the funeral home in the eastern part of Hong Kong island, nearly 1,000 fans, many dressed in black, queued in the summer heat to enter a funeral hall that was opened up to the public after a private service.
“The love you leave behind has become an ocean of stars,” read one large banner held by fans with a picture of Lee in a long white dress walking up a flight of pearl stairs.
Angie Zhang, 41, a fan from Shanghai, said she had bonded with her future husband at university through Lee’s songs.
“We always chose her songs to dance with. She’s our connection. We want to accompany her for her last journey. When we heard the news that she passed away, our minds went blank,” she said, while holding a wreath of flowers.
Inside the hall, people entered and bowed in front of a coffin surrounded by purple and pink flowers, and a portrait of the singer with the words: “In loving memory of CoCo Lee”.
Lee, who had struggled with depression for several years, died in Queen Mary Hospital on July 5 in Hong Kong, after a suicide attempt three days earlier left her in a coma, her two sisters wrote in a Facebook post at the time.
“Although Coco sought professional help and did her best to fight depression, sadly that demon inside of her took the better of her,” her sisters, Carol and Nancy, wrote in the statement.
‘Sing freely in Heaven’
Among Lee’s most notable performances were voicing the female warrior Mulan in the Mandarin-language version of Disney’s “Mulan” and performing the Oscar-nominated song “A Love Before Time” from the film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
“She was the first Asian singer who went to sing on the Oscar stage, and this makes us all proud of her,” said Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan in a video post. “I hope you can dance and sing freely in heaven.”
Lee was born in Hong Kong in 1975 and was the youngest of three children of a Hong Kong mother and Malaysian father.
Lee was a groundbreaking, ethnically Chinese star who broke into the international music scene and became hugely popular in China and Taiwan, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
While she moved to San Francisco in her childhood, she was offered a recording contract in Hong Kong with Capital Artists after high school, prompting her to move back to her home city.
In 1996, Lee signed with Sony Music Entertainment and her debut album, “Coco Lee”, became the bestselling album of that year in Asia.
Her popularity grew steadily in Asia and across the Pacific, setting her on a path of new collaborations and English-language songs. Over a nearly 30-year career, she recorded 18 studio albums and appeared in three films, most notably Lee Xin’s “Master of Everything”.
In 2011, Lee married Bruce Rockowitz, a Canadian businessman who is the former CEO of the Hong Kong supply chain company Li & Fung. He survives her, as do her sisters and two stepdaughters.