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Groundbreaking artist who died 3 days after attempting suicide

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The entertainment world recently mourned the loss of Coco Lee, a remarkable Hong Kong-born star who captivated audiences with her multifaceted talents. Beyond her extraordinary achievements, however, Lee’s life was marked by an ongoing battle with health challenges, which ultimately led to her untimely passing. Her recent attempt to take her own life, subsequent hospitalisation and eventual demise has shed light on the often-hidden struggles faced by individuals in the spotlight.

In this tribute, Skabash! reflects on the vibrant career of Coco Lee and her battle with depression and remembers the legacy she left behind.

Coco Lee biography

Coco Lee smiling

Coco Lee (January 17, 1975 – July 5, 2023), was a multitalented artist who hailed from Hong Kong. She showcased her talent as a musician, actress, dancer, and singer.

Lee’s mother is from Hong Kong and her father is Malaysian Chinese. She had two elder sisters, Nancy and Carol. Nancy eventually became her manager. Lee’s father passed away before her birth. At the age of nine, Lee and her sisters relocated to San Francisco, a city in the U.S. state of California, with their mother. In San Francisco, Lee attended Presidio Middle School and later Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School.

Upon completing high school in the summer of 1992, she received a recording contract opportunity in Hong Kong. She attempted to balance her budding career in the music industry with her studies at the University of California, Irvine. However, she decided to leave university after her first year to focus on her pop music career.

Lee tied the knot with Bruce Rockowitz, a Hong Kong-based Canadian businessman, on October 27, 2011, in Hong Kong. The grand occasion featured performances by renowned artists such as Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, and Ne-Yo, adding to the celebratory atmosphere.

As a special touch for her wedding, Lee recorded the song “I Just Wanna Marry U” in both Chinese and English versions. The song was released on October 24, 2011.

While Lee did not have any biological children, she embraced her role as a stepmother to her husband’s two adult daughters from his previous marriage.

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Coco Lee career

Coco Lee performing

Upon returning to Hong Kong in the summer of 1992, Lee witnessed her sisters participating in the Miss Hong Kong Pageant. During her visit, she decided to take part in the 12th Annual New Talent Singing Awards and finished as the first runner-up. Her performance included a rendition of Whitney Houston’s Run to You. Soon after, she was offered a recording contract by Capital Artists.

Lee’s musical journey began with appearances on compilation albums such as Red Hot Hits ’93 Autumn Edition. In 1994, she released her first solo albums in Mandarin, titled: Love from Now On and Promise Me, under Fancy Pie Records. The subsequent year saw the release of her English language cover album, Brave Enough to Love, and her third Mandarin album, Woman in Love.

In 1996, Lee signed with Sony Music Entertainment, and her self-titled album, Coco Lee, emerged as the top-selling album of 1996 in Asia. The following year, she unveiled her Mandarin album, Sincere, and a Cantonese album bearing her name. Another significant milestone was achieved in 1998 with the release of the Mandarin album Di Da Di, which sold one million copies in less than three months.

In 2005, Sony BMG released Lee’s second English album, Exposed. The album, however, faced restrictions in Mainland China due to the explicit lyrics in certain songs, such as Touch and So Good. Following this, she released her Mandarin album titled: Just Want You, in September 2006. In 2008, Lee sang Forever Friends for the 2008 Summer Olympics, alongside Sun Nan.

Lee later joined Warner Music Group (Taiwan) as her record company. On 14th August, she released a new Mandarin album titled: East to West. The album included songs like Party Time, Turn (from the movie “The Legend of Silkboy” for the Shanghai World Expo 2010), and BYOB (“Bring Your Own Bag”), a song which promotes environmental consciousness and urges people to bring and recycle their shopping bags. She collaborated with other artists, including JJ Lin, Andy Lau, Jam Hsiao, and Jane Zhang, on the song, Smile Shanghai, which was created for the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

In March 2010, Lee embarked on her “East2West” World Tour Concert, starting in Taipei at the Taipei Arena. She also performed at the Encore Theatre in Wynn Casino in Las Vegas, America, in July 2010, followed by a performance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore in October 2010. Additionally, she held a concert in Nanning in December 2010.

In March 2011, Lee participated in the recording of the official theme song, Succumb not to Sorrow, for the Cantonese version of the event, “Artists 311 Love Beyond Borders.” Her song, Dreams on Oriental Seas, featuring Sun Nan, was broadcasted as the theme song for the 14th FINA World Championships held in Shanghai in July 2011.

On June 8 2011, Lee announced the establishment of her studio. Later, on June 25, 2011, one of her songs titled: Four Seas Alliance, was broadcast as the theme song for the 2011 Chinese television drama “All Men Are Brothers”. On December 17, 2011, she performed at the Booey Lehoo Concert in Beijing and shared the stage with will.i.am and apl.de.ap from The Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and Shunza.

In 2016, Lee participated in the fourth season of the Chinese reality show, I Am A Singer. She took part despite having faced a temporary setback due to bronchitis affecting her singing ability in 2014. However, she made a recovery and went on to compete and ultimately won the competition. She became the first non-mainland Chinese singer to achieve this feat. Lee later returned as a guest singer in subsequent seasons of the show, now rebranded as Singer. She appeared in the fifth season during the biennial concert and as a guest performer for Jessie J, the eventual winner of the sixth season.

Coco Lee songs

Lee has a diverse discography with a wide range of songs in various genres. Here are some notable songs from her career:

  • “A Love Before Time”: This song gained international attention as it was featured in the film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Sung in both English and Mandarin Chinese, it showcased Coco Lee’s powerful vocals and became one of her signature songs.
  • “Do You Want My Love”: Released in 1999, this upbeat dance-pop track became a major hit for Lee.
  • “Before I Fall in Love”: Featured in the film “Runaway Bride,” this song became popular in the late 1990s.
  • “Di Da Di”: This upbeat Mandarin pop song was a chart-topping hit. Its catchy melody and infectious rhythm made it a fan favourite.
  • “So Crazy”:  This R&B-influenced track showcased was released in 2000.
  • “Promise”: This is a heartfelt love song that resonated with many listeners.
  • “Hip Hop Tonight”: Released in 2005, this song marked a departure from Coco Lee’s usual pop sound, as it incorporated hip-hop elements into her music.
  • “Glow”: Released in 2013, this empowering anthem delivered a positive and uplifting message.

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Coco Lee films

Coco Lee

Here’s a brief overview of some of the movies Lee was featured in:

  • Mulan (1998): Lee provided the voice for the main character, Fa Mulan.
  • Master of Everything (2004): Lee portrayed the character Lu Hua in the film, contributing to the comedic storyline.
  • Forever Young (2015): In this film, Coco Lee took on the role of Teacher Han. “Forever Young” explores the themes of love, dreams and the pursuit of happiness.

Coco Lee’s health

Coco Lee selfie

Lee was born with a defect in her left leg and underwent unsuccessful surgery at the age of two. As a result, she relied on her right leg for support throughout her life.

In March 2023, she revealed to her fans on social media that she had undergone pelvic and thigh surgery in Hong Kong after aggravating an old leg injury during dance practice in October 2022. Lee shared videos of her rehabilitation process, including learning to walk again.

Coco Lee death

Coco Lee on the piano

On July 2, 2023, Lee attempted to take her life. She was subsequently admitted to Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong in an unconscious state. She passed away three days later on July 5, 2023, at the age of 48. Her sister, Nancy, announced that the funeral would be postponed until at least August, pending an autopsy.

According to a statement shared by Lee’s elder sisters, Carol and Nancy Lee, the Hong Kong-born star had been grappling with depression for several years.

Coco Lee age

Coco Lee was born on January 17, 1975. She was 48 years old at the time of her death.\

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