A-Go-Go Queen Rita Chao dies of colon cancer

Rita Chao (right) and Sakura Teng were a popular duo in the 1960s. -- PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO FILE
Rita Chao (right) and Sakura Teng were a popular duo in the 1960s. -- PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO FILE

Rita Chao, the singer and recording artist popular in the 1960s as part of a duo with Sakura Teng, died last July from cancer, her mother revealed yesterday to Lianhe Wanbao.

Chao was 64 and was suffering from colon cancer for about three years when she died at the Singapore General Hospital, her 90-year-old mother said.

As Rita & Sakura, Chao and Teng were known as the A-Go-Go Queens at the height of the dance craze back then.

Chao famously performed and sang in knee-high boots and mini skirts. She also sang in English, making records with bands including The Quests.

She died with her mother and siblings by her bed, her mother said, and her ashes were scattered at sea after a short wake and funeral attended by family and friends.

Wanbao reported the mother as saying that the family did not inform show business friends as they wanted the past to be forgotten.

Teng was surprised and cried when she learnt the news from Wanbao yesterday, the paper reported.

She performed in Singapore last week and said she had seen Chao about two years ago and thought she had overcome her illness.

The duo were well known in the region for their Mandarin song Peach Blossom River.

Among Chao's own songs, which included many covers of English songs, were Sixteen Candles, Wooly Bully, Shake Shake Shake and Pretty Flamingo.

Singer Ling Xiao, 65, yesterday told Life! that he did not know Chao was ill and learnt of her death only last week.

He said: "Rita Chao was one of the liveliest and warmest singers of the 1970s. Very few singers at that time were as lively as her on stage, jumping around and dancing with so much fervour.

"When she was not performing, however, she was a very quiet and gentle girl. I also remember that she had a tendency to do things very slowly.

"She would spend hours doing her make-up for the stage, from 1pm all the way to 7pm. But I guess that shows that she was dedicated to her craft."

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