Original king of TV theme songs Johnny Ip, 72, practises every day

Singer Johnny Ip will perform his hit songs at a concert at Kallang Theatre with Camy Tang, queen of classic Cantonese songs .
Singer Johnny Ip will perform his hit songs at a concert at Kallang Theatre with Camy Tang, queen of classic Cantonese songs .PHOTO: 20SIX PRODUCTIONS

A string of 1980s hits propelled veteran HK-based singer Johnny Ip into the limelight and he is still remembered for those tunes

8Q

Before the likes of Della Ding Dang and Bii made a name for themselves through television series theme songs, there was veteran Hong Kong-based singer Johnny Ip.

Among his best-known hits are Gone With The Wind (1980), The Tai-Chi Master (1980) and Forget The Love In My Heart for The Legend Of Master So (1982).

Forget The Love In My Heart proved to be unforgettable and has become his signature hit.

Speaking in Cantonese over the telephone from Hong Kong, Ip, 72, says: "Till today, wherever I go in the world, it's my most popular song. I feel very lucky that I got to sing the theme songs of so many highly rated dramas and that people still like them."

The king of Hong Kong TV theme songs will team up with the queen of classic Cantonese songs Camy Tang for a concert at Kallang Theatre on Sept 30.

  • BOOK IT / JOHNNY IP & CAMY TANG CONCERT 2017

  • WHERE: Kallang Theatre, 1 Stadium Walk

    WHEN: Sept 30, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $58 to $138 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

1 How did you get into music?

I was born in Macau and came to Hong Kong after my studies. I bumped into a friend with whom I'd played in a band before and he told me about an opening for a bass player.

Since I had yet to find a job, I started that very night. That was in 1969.

2 What was your impression of Singapore when you recorded an English-language album here in 1975?

I liked it very much then. There weren't many tall buildings or cars on the road, so I felt very relaxed in Singapore. I stayed here for half a year at Mandarin Hotel. That was a very happy six months.

I have been to Singapore 30 times over the years, including to perform at (feted Hong Kong composer) Joseph Koo's concerts in recent years.

3 How did you get to sing the title track as well as secondary theme song Dramatic Life for the series Gone With The Wind (1980)?

The band I was with, New Topnotes, had split up, but I was still under contract to EMI.

As people were starting to listen to Cantonese songs (and not just English music), the label suggested that I try recording one. It happened that the then Rediffusion Television was looking for someone to sing the theme song.

Dramatic Life won an award (Top 10 Chinese Gold Songs Award) so that was a great start for me in Chinese music.

4 What makes for a good theme song?

The lyrics should relate to the show. I think they were well-written in the past as they referenced the stories and complemented the series.

The moment you heard it, you would think of the show. But nowadays, they might not be specifically written for a TV series.

5 Why do you always wear shades at your concerts?

I fell ill when I was 10 and because of the high fever, my optic nerve cells were damaged.

With age, the condition has deteriorated and the visibility is less than 10 per cent.

During recording, the lyrics have to be very large for me to see them, but I can't rustle the pages as that would be picked up by the mic.

If there are problems, I try to get around them. Since it's hard to look at small print, I carry a magnifying glass around with me.

6 How do you keep your voice in good condition?

I don't do anything special. I have never stopped before and as long as you keep singing, you can maintain that standard. I continue to practise every day even at my age, I don't goof off.

7 What are the highs and lows of your career?

No matter how popular you are, there will be a day when it ends and I've always been prepared for that.

The early 1980s were a peak, and from 1986 to 1991, that was a low period when I went into the recording studio business.

Then I sang some theme songs for popular series such as Romance Of The Three Kingdoms (1995) and The Pride Of Chaozhou (1997) and that was another high point.

Around 2010, the label Fung Hang started to put out audiophile albums for me. Young people don't buy CDs anymore so it's the hi-fi aficionados who still buy records.

I released my fifth such album this year and they've all been popular so I feel very lucky.

In the 1990s, I did consider retiring and holding a farewell concert, but my label then, WSM Music Group, was not in favour since I could still sing. I don't think about it anymore and will just sing as long as I can.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Very simple, as a singer. I hope to sing more lovely songs for people to listen to.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Original king of TV theme songs'. Print Edition | Subscribe