The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman

Dick Lee Mad ChinamanI hope my wife will not be upset with me.

Through my ex-girlfriend, I was introduced to the album The Mad Chinaman by Singaporean artist, Dick Lee, when I was in living in Chicago back in 1990. My ex-girlfriend was beautiful and smart – she was going to college in New Jersey then. For those who wonder why I married my current wife and have two kids with her… well, to cut a long story short, after some intensive study at Northwestern University, I eventually figured out that my-ex was a great gal, so I came to the conclusion that she was a keeper and converted her into my wife, now aka my boss.

The Mad Chinaman album was cute and cultural to me. I never got tired listening to those songs. My ex-girlfriend, my wife, my boss and I all agreed that the album was a keeper too and it has been with us since and it has travelled with us through New Jersey, Los Angeles, Toronto and now back to its birth place, Singapore.

The other night, when my wife told me that we were going for the ‘Mad Chinaman Upsized’ show, I thought, “Cool, an interesting musical.” When my almighty (almost…) wife and I showed up at the Esplanade, we were pointed to an unfamiliar concert hall. (At that point my ex-girlfriend was with me and she was gorgeous).

After I sat down, it dawned on me that I was going to sit in a concert for the next few hours at the absolute last row, right smack at the center but farthest from the stage!! Some people may know I am a very conservative Chinese boy – I have never been to any singers’ concert. Even though I have nothing against Dick Lee as an artist, sitting around listening to a ‘concert’ has never been my preferred way of spending time regardless of where my butt occupies which real estate…

Hong Kong pop singer, Sandy Lam, had a few big hits in the 80s when I was a young man going to parties.  She was same age as me even though she was a little older, which makes me stay forever younger as a result! Some of her songs were written by Dick Lee. Well, there were far more Hong Kong pop stars who benefitted from the talents of Dick Lee in addition to Sandy Lam.

Back to the concert, it was very multicultural and uniquely Singapore. It was a great show! Probably only those who have lived in Singapore long enough may have the language (Chinese mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, Malay, and English were used), cultural and political background to understand most of the content. It was a very entertaining show indeed. There were numerous lighthearted stories and local jokes, which can only be done properly with a talented and popular local artist.

At the end of the event, the audience, even though rather tame IMHO, asked for an encore. After a long while Dick Lee reappeared and performed a solo. He played the piano brilliantly and sang his song “Home’ which has been used at the National Day Parade for the past 17 years and has become the favorite song of most Singaporeans.

“Home”’ was a very special piece – it made many people cry and caused numerous goose pimples as it was such a heartwarming piece. I think the song reflects the emotions in the hearts of many Singaporeans. Right there and then, the audience sang along and I was that lonely Hong Kong boy sitting among numerous nation-loving Singaporeans proudly singing their hearts out to close the show. It reminded me of my high school. At that point I strongly felt like a St Louis boy… even though the Spirit of St Louis was a different game altogether.

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