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Hong Kong Superstar Jacky Cheung's TalkAsia Transcript

Airdate: November 20th, 2004

LH: Lorraine Hahn
JC: Jacky Cheung


LH: This week on TalkAsia, a Hong Kong superstar whose soulful songs melt hearts across the world. This is TalkAsia.

Welcome to TalkAsia, I'm Lorraine Hahn, my guest this week is Hong Kong superstar Jacky Cheung. It all began with a singing competition in 1984, beating 10,000 contestants; Cheung walked away with first prize and was snapped up by a record label. His breakthrough came in 1991 with the mega-Canto-pop hit 'Loving you a little more every day'. Two years later, Cheung became the first Hong Kong singer to win over the lucrative mandarin-speaking market, with the album 'Goodbye kiss'. Since then, he's been showered with multiple singing accolades. And as if releasing more then 60 albums so far isn't enough, Cheung has appeared in dozens of films to critical acclaim. Music critics say that at 43, Cheung is without doubt one of the four if not quote 'the heavenly king' of canto-pop. Jacky joins me now to tell me how he does it and much much more...

LH: It's good to see you thank you very much for coming in

JC: No, I've been looking forward to talking

LH: Why do you think you have continued to endure and be as popular as you are -- for so long?

JC: I don't know. Well, the one theory that I believe is that you have to keep working. Well, as in artist people just look at the work. New people might love your new things and some people might love the old things, so you've got to keep doing something, keep exploring yourself.

LH: You know there's so much new talent coming into the markets these days, is that a concern for you? Does that mean you have to be more on the ball, more on the edge?

JC: Why, I mean, once I was new to the other singing sections, now I'm one of the very...(LH: veteran. Laughs) senior -- senior singer, ok?! -- so, that's quite normal to me actually. And I think the scenes need more new blood.

LH: You are known for your ballads, the songs that you sing...(JC: I sing fast number. Laughs LH: Yes, you know) I don't know why but you seem to be associated with, you know, these slow, romantic songs Why is this? Does it reflect you as a person more so than the fast pumping songs?

JC: I think the first thing is I didn't dance as good as Aaron Kwok, that's why! And secondly I think I did have a few very, very popular ballad songs and that's why (LH: People associate with that) people might easier associate me with that.

LH: You have also very successfully broken into the mandarin-speaking market -- Taiwan and then China -- was it difficult to make that transition?

JC: It's not why...I have little advantage, because I was brought up in a mandarin-speaking family actually -- yeh my family is from Tianjin. So my Grandma is speaking mandarin only

LH: You've done different fast songs, rap albums, an English album to you name as well -- why the diversity, is it a challenge for you or...?

JC: I love to keep moving actually, that's why I've been trying different things. I believe in that, it keeps me alive. I mean, as I said, you need to explore yourself, find more about yourself and try more new things that keep you alive. That's why I'm doing...and I still believe in this, that's why I'm still doing it.

LH: In your last album you wrote all the songs, correct? (JC: Yes. Laughs LH: Wow) I mean, why write, why start writing?

JC: It's all because of...ok, for a certain time there was a feel quite lost in the market and what am I going to do? Ok, if you consider the kind of market -- what kind of album can sell in the market now? There might be a lot of reason for not very ideal market sales now, there might be a lot of reason. One thing I think is you really need to be yourself in the market. That's why I started to write something. The best way to tell people who you are is to write something about yourself, and tell them about yourself. So I started writing some lyrics and some songs.

LH: And you dedicated one of them to friends, your very close friends right -- Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung -- who both passed away?

JC: Well, this is uhh...I think 2003 is quite a terrible year for many people in Hong Kong, of course, in our scenes we lost quite a few friends, actually. It affected me a bit and I just reflected in my album

LH: If you had person in this world -- anyone in this world -- who would you sing with?

JC: Elton John

LH: Elton John? Wow, you know I interviewed him recently, right? When he was in Hong Kong. Yeh, he's wonderful. Why Elton John?

JC: Well, he used to be my idol for so many years, actually, since I was in my teenage. And he's still standing there remember his song "I'm still standing", he's been struggling and this is the way I look into life. He's great, he can hold a concert without any other musicians, just give him piano he can sit there sing for three hours (LH: or even more, hit after hit)

LH: Jacky, we're going to take a very short break. Just ahead on TalkAsia, a clip of Jacky's breakout role, and his earlier days. That's coming up.


Plasma shot -- clip from movie 'As Tears Go by' (1988)

LH: Welcome back to TalkAsia - that is a clip from the 1988 movie 'As Tears Go By'. Jacky Cheung's performance as a frustrated, low-level triad member won him that year's Best Supporting Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

LH: Jacky you've obviously done a number of films and obviously won accolades for it, but what takes precedence -- singing or acting?

JC: I love singing...if I had to chose one between singing and acting, I would have to chose singing, of course it's more personal. But I like acting, too. You can be another person, that's kind of fun.

LH: Now, you had several desk jobs, one I read was with Cathay Pacific when you first started. How did you keep that dream going that maybe one day you would make it in the entertainment business?

JC: That's not my dream (LH: really?) and I dare not to dream about it, you know. I have no relations, I never know any people that were related to this business so you had no way in actually, so I love join singing contests because I loved the excitement that I can get through the process. So, that's the only thing I can get, I think. And accidentally I got a contract and that's how I'm in. I'm a practical person actually, so I stayed with my job until I really got a big success with my first album. Then I start creating it. So I was in both careers (LH: at the same time?) for the same time, for a few months, actually.

LH: Wow amazing. Now what about your parents, what did they think from suddenly desk job to, you know, a singing sensations?

JC: As long as I can give enough money back to support family. My mum always says 'it's ok for a boy to get into the business'. We heard a lot of rumors about the business for the girl, better think more think deeply. You might have to give up a lot of things. But for boys, what you got to lose? Just go!

LH: So they were supporting you all the way?

JC: My mum, yes, all the way. (LH: Good, your Dad?) My daddy is an engineer on board -- he's traveling everywhere and all year. So I didn't have much time to talk to him and of course he didn't say anything - didn't say any 'no' this (LH: right, right)

LH: Now, I've read that in the 80s, latter part of the 80s, you had some tough times, and things weren't doing so well. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but you started drinking and your career was going down -- is that true and how didn't you manage to pull back up?

JC: That's true, and it's all printed (LH: you never believe what you read, right?) Well, those days you can believe some. Well yes and I picked up some bad habits at those times I started drinking with some friends. The worst part was I couldn't control myself after drinking. Yes, and at that time my career was going down, but it's a normal trend, I think. You couldn't just keep your career all the way up there, so it goes down a bit then you start to pick up something...somebody's mistake, you know what's wrong and then you correct and you climb up again, so this is how it goes. Again, the thing is, you've gotta keep working you know that movie that you just showed, that year that's the worst year of my singing career actually, but I'd been doing a lot of movies at that time. So you've got to keep yourself busy, either doing this or doing that. So, of course, if you have a chance you've got to grab it and keep doing it -- no matter what it is.

LH: And how did you pull yourself back up again?

JC: Face. You've got to face the reality; I mean you can't just bury your head into those bottles. After you're awake, you're still the same person. You're still facing the same problems and the same difficulties. So you just stand up and face it, and start doing everything from the very beginning, check what's wrong and fix it.

LH: What has been the biggest price -- you would say -- that you have had to pay for fame?

JC: Well, I'm not this "star" kind of person -- I don't want to be a star. I love singing and I love acting, and I want to live a normal life. And that's why I'm actually sending my kids to school and doing every what all the parents did. If I had to say one thing, that I couldn't be as normal as everyone (LH: so privacy would be...) I'm ready to give up some of my own privacy, but not my family -- that's the bottom line.

LH: and what is the best part of being who you are?

JC: The best part is you are doing something you really love to do. That will give you a better standard of living and that's good (LH: And making money for it?) Well, of course, I have to clear this point that I'm the lucky one and there's a lot of other singers that I know, or knew before and they've just gone (LH: who didn't make it, who didn't survive).

LH: Jacky, we're going to take another very short break when we return a brand new role for Jacky Cheung


Plasma shot -- clip from music video.

LH: That's another one of Jacky Cheung's famous hits, 'A thousand heart-breaking reasons'. Luckily his real life is not so heartbreaking, he's happily married and a proud father of a four-year-old daughter. Earlier this year, Hong Kong Disneyland appointed Jacky as their spokesperson and they say Jacky stands for everything that makes Disney so special.

LH: Jacky, why Disneyland? Why be a spokesperson for them?

JC: They come and look for me and I think, I've been watching a lot of Disney movies with my kids. I think it's about time for me to do something that I can share with my kids.

LH: What do you hope to achieve, raising the profile or bringing to the attention?

JC: I just want to do something that I - you know, I've been in over 60 movies and sing a lot of songs, but most of them I couldn't share them with my kid -- for the moment, actually. Now, as a spokesperson of Disneyland I can tell my kid what I'm doing now (LH: and she can relate to it, right? JC: Yes, she can totally understand and I can show her everything that I'm doing for them

LH: You have done so many things in your life, acting, singing, and musicals. Is there something else that you'd like to do that you haven't done yet?

JC: A lot. I don't know, I'm thinking of traveling. Really looking into the world. Yes, I've been traveling to many many countries -- most part of the world, yes but I just work (LH: that's not the same, yes). When I have some time off, I would like see the world with my family, maybe when my kid is getting...(LH: a bit older, yes so she can appreciate it, right?)

LH: When somebody picks up a Jacky Cheung CD -- anywhere in this world -- what do you hope they will get out of it? What do hope they will feel when they get into your music?

JC: I just want them to feel what they feel. I mean, what's important about songs, it can make you feel something from it. If you can feel something from it - that's what I want actually. You can feel from my album. It might dig up some of your own feelings about something, about memories or whatsoever. It can ease your pain, or it can make you happy for a while or make you relaxed for just a second and that's good enough, that's what I want.

LH: And it's also so amazing that some people don't understand, let's say, Cantonese or mandarin, but still buy your albums and still listen to you

JC: Well, that's good when you've heard something about it they don't just buy your albums for who you are, but just because of your music your voice and that makes you feel good.

LH: Jacky, thank you so much for coming in to talk to us we really appreciate it. Thank you, thank you.

JC: No, no I was really happy to talk to you

LH: Devoted entertainer, philanthropist, husband and father - Jacky Cheung. And that is TalkAsia this week, be sure to check out our website at for upcoming guests. And you can let us know who you'd like to see on the show at that address Thank you very much for joining us, I'm Lorraine Hahn, let's talk again next week.

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