It was another ‘Words & Music Presentation’ at the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC) meeting on Sunday, 30 June, as they welcomed David S. Lee who energetically spoke about “My life as a Chinese and Taiwanese pop star.” David is an International Award-Winning Recording Artist, Producer, Digital Engineer, and Lecturer.
His was an amazing Cinderella story about a Chinese born boy, whisked off to America at a time of her glory. Grabbed that glory in music and exported it back to China at a time that was ripe, becoming the father of rock in that country. He has been blessed with talent, glory, money and success. A story only dreamt of by many.
He mentioned that his dad, a General in the Taiwanese Army and sensing difficult times ahead with mainland China, scraped up the money to send David to America at that vulnerable age of 13. Much to his dad’s anguish, while living with family in Houston, Texas, David became what at the time was a typical American teenager, loving Rock music, growing long hair and participating in some other unsatisfactory activities.
Eventually his father moved to America, didn’t like Houston and moved on to stay in Florida with another relative. He said his father called him and begged him not to pursue the music career into which he was too obviously headed. Just two days later David received a call saying his dad had died suddenly. Trying to honor his dad’s wish, David temporarily gave up the idea of a music career and added computer science as well as music to his studies at the University of Houston.
He was good at math and with a computer science background; NASA offered him a well-paying job working with communications equipment on the space shuttle. Even that could not quell his yearning to know, write and sing music; American rock at that. While in the cockpit of the shuttle where he was supposed to be working, he was listening to and memorizing words from groups like the Eagles.
It was during this period that he was attending a party and a close friend asked him, ‘David, what do you want to be 5 years from now?’ Before he could answer, the friend said for him to really think about it before he answered. After some thought, he said that in 5 years, he would like to do music every day. She then mentioned what he should be doing in each of the next 5 years to reach that goal. It was this event that caused him quit his great job at NASA to pursue his dream, music. Thus, he then began his 5-year plan.
So, at 23, he opened his recording studio and production company which operated for over 20 years; his clients included producers from Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Billy Joel, and movie sound tracks with Superman, Tender Mercy and more.
A wonderful turning point in David’s life came when Michael Jackson’s manager took David by the arm, brought him to a quiet room where they both got down on their knees and pointing upward said that from now on, he would get the glory of what we do. He went on to help David complete his first successful album launching a brilliant career.
This led to his first signing with PolyGram/Universal Records in 1982. They were thinking they were signing an American rock star and much surprised to learn that he was Chinese originally from Taiwan. His first Chinese album actually contained 8 songs in English. In 1983, his Chinese album stayed #1 on the pop chart for a continuous 12 weeks. His English album also went onto the Billboard, R&R, Gavin Charts, and his life story was made into cartoon series, autobiography, movie and TV specials. This incursion of rock style into the Chinese music scene was climactic, starting the change in China from traditional music to contemporary. David is often seen as the father of that transition. In China he was nicknamed the “grasshopper”.
In 1990, he formed an entertainment and production company in Hollywood which produced and promoted many international major events including the Harlem Globetrotters, Ice Capades, introducing them to the China/Asia and USSR markets. This initiative was almost a fluke. The Globetrotters were scheduled to go to Korea but could not, due to rare circumstances. As a person with some connections in China he was asked if he could arrange booking the Trotters there. He got them into Beijing and that lead to him being a conduit for many other groups going to China.
David is also a writer and in 1995 he released his first book “20 Years of Music in Hollywood,” revealing the recording techniques inside the music industry. It is now one of the most popular text books for the modern music study.
From 1997 to 2008 he was President of Grasshopper Music/SONY, where he produced and released recordings by Asian and US artists for over 30 albums, including the New Age Grammy Award winning artist Jamii Szmadzinski.
His latest book, published in 2015, focused on the producer’s techniques in today’s modern digital world. Even now he lectures about using a 5 year plan: where will you be in five years and how do you plan to get there.
The presentation was followed by announcements and news of special interest groups, then the Open Forum where the audience can ask questions or make comments about expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya. For more information about the PCEC, visit www.pcec.club.