This January, the second season of “I Am a Singer” returned with seven big name celebrities who call from the 60s to the 00s, including Gary Cao, Bibi Zhou, G.E.M. Tang, but the lady with the powerhouse vocals that has captured the hearts and tears of Chinese viewers is Luo Qi.
On January 10th, Luo Qi performed a stirring cover of Zhang Yusheng’s “我期待”. Standing on the stage in a shining black dress, her explosive tresses falling on her shoulders, her eyes closed, she sings: Say goodbye, Say goodbye/Back and forth, over and over again/ Say goodbye say goodbye/ Throw my shoulders back my head held high/ Without any regret”
The thirty-nine year old, famously known as China’s No. 1 female rock vocalist in the 1980s, returns to the limelight with a life story worthy of a biopic.
Born in 1975, Luo had always loved singing. She began performing professionally at just 13, before heading to Beijing solo at 16 to push forward in her musical career. That same year in 1991, together with four other instrumentalists, Luo formed 指南针乐队 (Zhinanzhen/Compass Band), a Chinese rock band. The band soon took over the Beijing rock music scene, and their classic songs, such as 请走人行道 (Please Take the Pedestrian Crossing) and 随心所欲 (Do As I Wish), became the equivalent of chart-toppers today.
“Return”, her most famous song:
Luo Qi’s vocals, described as raw and with the ability to hit you in the gut, were unusual for her time and brought her much praise. In 1994, the band released their first album, 选择坚强 (Choosing Strength), officially pushing them into the national spotlight.
Controversy and misfortune, however, seemed to come tangled as a package with Luo’s success. In 1993, at a friend’s birthday party, a drunk Luo got into a fight with another lady. Luo was stabbed in her face by a glass shard from a broken beer bottle, penetrating her left eye. Although she was rushed to the hospital immediately, her eye could not be saved. The acute blood loss meant that the doctors had to remove her left eye, or she risked losing her right one as well. Just like that, the 18 year old rock star suddenly became blind on one side. Till today, Luo still keeps her left eyeball (which has been preserved in formalin).
Despite the accident, Luo continued to pursue her musical career, and a year later their debut album hit mainstream success. In 1995, Luo became a guest host for a series of Channel V (an international music channel) variety programs, and her strength and optimism moved many viewers. For many of her fans, the image of Luo with her eyes wrapped in gauze and wearing shades is one that they still remember.
Little did fans know, however, that this was the beginning of Luo’s downfall, as she was introduced to the world of drugs. As her addiction grew, she began missing performances. Only years later, Luo said, “Everyone in the circle said drugs would give you inspiration, but that’s a lie, they just stimulate your senses… one day I finally realized that if I don’t destroy them, they would destroy me, because I saw my friend die in front of my eyes.”
Luo’s addiction came to a breaking point when in July 1997, while she was at the airport, a craving for heroine hit her so strongly that she abandoned her flight and hopped on to the first cab, pleading the cab driver to bring her anywhere that she can get her hands on the drug. In the end, the cab driver sent her to the police, where she was forcefully put into rehab. With this incident, Luo became the first public figure in China to be involved in a drug scandal, and her career officially came to an end.
With the help of friends, Luo quietly exited rehab and emigrated to Germany, where she continued her fight to evict drugs from her life. She contacted a German doctor who agreed to help her. Because she had no medical insurance in Germany, he treated her for free. Later, Luo learnt that he saw the determination in her, and knew that only such determination can lift one out of drug addiction.
At this lowest point in her life, Luo met her future husband – Mr. Yang – at a party through a mutual friend. The two hit it off immediately, and the German man was intrigued and touched by Luo’s life story. The two quickly tied the knot, and with the support of Yang, Luo endured the one year of gruelling rehabilitations.
A healthy Luo recovered her optimism and began looking at opportunities to return to performing. Her husband became her agent, liaising with all sorts of production companies. Gradually, Luo began to practice and record new music, and many Chinese fans continued to support her, sending warm messages online, asking for her to return to China.
Luo’s chance came in 2004, as she received an invitation to perform at the China Music Charts Awards Ceremony. After six years away, Luo returned to the stage on March 26 that year. In April, Luo officially signed with Beijing music company 金克木文化 Jinkemu, and began touring around China.
Rumors of her participation in I Am a Singer 2 began circulating in December last year, as the first episode began filming. Carrying a child, the new Luo performed her own classic Do As I Wish 随心所欲 (below), returning to her rightful place in the spotlight.
Luo has just announced her withdrawal from the competition today during the 6th episode, citing that 7 months into her pregnancy is taking a toll on her body, and her baby’s health is the priority. Looking back at her tumultuous life and the long way she took here, fans should have no fears that Luo will continue doing what she loves.