Lee Tai-hsiang (李泰祥), dubbed the nation’s godfather of music, passed away on Thursday aged 72 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
He died in his sleep in a hospice ward at Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sindian District (新店) with his family beside him, a spokesperson said.
Lee was one of the guiding lights of Taiwan’s campus folk music movement during the 1970s. Olive Tree (橄欖樹) and Farewell (告別) are two of his most popular songs.
Lee Jo-ling (李若菱), the musician’s youngest daughter, said her father’s Tainan Municipal Cultural Center concert tomorrow will still go on, but the event will now become a memorial concert to him.
Friends knew him as a romantic who had a number of dalliances with female paramours. They said his burning passion for romance provided Lee with “rich experiences of love, bliss, abandonment, depression and pain,” which inspired his musical works.
Lee had a solid foundation in Western classical music. He majored in violin and graduated from National College of Arts in Taipei in 1964, after which he was with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra as a violinist, eventually was promoted to the position of orchestra conductor in 1974.
Lee always looked for inspiration from within Taiwan, the land and the people that he is most familiar with, his colleagues said.
Lee wanted to popularize classical music, and get the public to embrace music at school. He collaborated with pop singers, as well also composing music scores for movies.
He was born into an Amis Aborigine family in Taitung.
Fellow musician Hsu Bo-yu (許博允), president of the New Aspect Promotion Corporation, said he remembered at Lee’s father once had to pay for his son’s music lessons by giving late musician Hsu Chang-hui (許常惠) an ox, which showed how poor Lee’s family was at the time.
At the end of a successful career, Lee has left a lasting legacy of more than 1,000 musical works.
At the height of his career, Lee was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and other ailments, but he did not give up and continued his devotion to music in the last two decades of his life.
To arrest the worsening body conditions and retrain his muscles, Lee learned calligraphy when in hospital.
Though devoted to music, Lee was not as good at managing financial affairs. Throughout his life, he did not own much property, and did not know about copyright and royalty issues.
“I should feel thankful that other people are willing to play my music. How can I think of making people pay for royalties?” he said.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday praised Lee’s legacy.
“Maestro Lee has composed many beautiful melodies, helped nurture young talent and sponsored orphaned children throughout his life. We appreciate what he brought to all of us,” Ma wrote on his Facebook page.
Despite his passing, Lee’s spirit and music will live on, Ma added.
Additional reporting by CNA