This file photo taken on Dec 17, 2011 shows CoCo Lee in Beijing, China. (Photo by Zou Hong/chinadaily.com.cn)
There is now "one more star in the sky", actor Jackie Chan wrote in a touching tribute to CoCo Lee as shocked family members, friends and fans tried to come to terms with the reality that the music icon was gone too soon.
The 48-year-old Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter, who delivered the hit Before I Fall in Lovefor the 1999 movie Runaway Bride, and whose song A Love Before Time for the martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won an Oscar nomination in 2001, died on Wednesday in a local hospital where she had been in a coma following a suicide attempt on Sunday.
After her sisters Carol and Nancy Lee broke the tragic news in a statement on social media, tributes poured in from across the globe.
Action star Chan said in his post on Sina Weibo on Thursday: "CoCo, you are born a star, possessing such incredible talent and unique personal style. Your voice, dance and radiant smile impacted countless people. You brought so much to this world. Now, there is one more star in the sky, and may there be no more pain. Rest in peace."
Warner Music Group's Beijing office released a statement that read: "CoCo Lee enjoyed a brilliant music career since her debut in 1994. ... She not only brought Chinese music and culture to the audience around the globe but also inspired people with her music, dance and positive energy."
The singer signed a contract with Warner Music Group in April 2022 and released a single, Wonder, two months later.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ang Lee, director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, expressed shock over CoCo Lee's death, according to Chinese media reports. "She was such a cheerful and lovely person. ... I really do miss her," he said in a statement.
Pop singer Na Ying said in her Weibo post: "It's very sad. We had no chance to work together. You're gone. I am so sad."
Singer Jolin Tsai posted a message on Facebook that read, "R.I.P., your bright smile will always be remembered."
In their statement on Instagram and other social media platforms on Wednesday, CoCo Lee's sisters wrote that 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of her singing career.
"In the past 29 years, she's won international acclaim with top selling songs. ... CoCo is known to have worked tirelessly to open up a new world for Chinese singers in the international music scene, and she went all out to shine for the Chinese," it said.
Born in Hong Kong, CoCo Lee moved to the United States, where she attended middle and high school in San Francisco before returning to her hometown. She made it to broadcaster TVB's new singing talent contest and ended up being the runner-up by performing Whitney Houston's hit song Run to You. She released her debut albumLove From Now On in 1994 at the age of 19.
CoCo Lee was the first Chinese singer to break into the US market. In 1998, she was the voice of Hua Mulan in the Mandarin version of the Disney film Mulan. She also sang the Mandarin version of the movie's theme song Reflection. In 1999, she was invited to perform at the Michael Jackson &Friends charity concert held in South Korea.
A fan of Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey, she was known for her solid singing techniques and energetic image on screen and onstage. Her performance of A Love Before Time on the Oscar stage in 2001 won her accolades.
"I was like a fan girl, watching big stars such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts on the red carpet. But as the curtains went up, I was totally in the zone," the singer said while recalling her Oscar moment during an interview with China Daily.
Unlike other female singers of her generation, who mostly performed gentle or slow love ballads, CoCo Lee gained a large fan base with her bold voice and style.
"The first album I bought was CoCo's Di Da Di. It was in 1998 and I was in high school. She had dyed her hair bright red, which was rarely seen among female pop singers in the Chinese music scene. Her songs were also different from others at that time, which introduced me to a new world of music," a fan recalled on social media.
"Both on screen and onstage, she had a powerful presence. Her voice was memorable, her dancing fast-paced," wrote another fan. "Whether on the red carpet or during her concerts, she had a unique style, always exuding confidence."