He left this world without a sound, nothing for us to remember him by besides a few faded photographs and a little stack of albums. How can such a gifted performer be so stingy towards himself and the world? He was the nightingale that rarely sang, he was the narcissus that scarcely bloomed. Only the lucky few got to catch the moments of splendor, even fewer seem to fully appreciate the essence of his art. Then in the blink of an eye, he disappeared into the wind leaving his admirers to wonder: Was he only a dream?
Being born with a face like that is a curse. I can see the fingers pointing at his back, I can hear the murmurs spreading in the air: "how dare a mainland singer look better than Hong Kong god Chow Yun-fat?" The narrow minds of the public could not accept: "No, he must be gay!!" Thus rumors brewed and flourished. Question: "Why does he grow thinner and paler whereas everyone else get old and fat?" Answer: "What else? Of course he's a junkie." Not a shred of proof was provided or required. When a lie is repeated a hundred times, it becomes the truth. In the eyes of some, he will forever be grouped together with the rest of the "problem singers". The proud defendant responds to these accusations with his habitual silence, but occasionally it is broken in frustration. "I don't have ears!" he once raised his voice to a reporter. Hurt and disillusionment slowly crept into his big expressive eyes, did he go into the music world with this blood-thirsty audience in mind? "No", he decides emphatically, "I only sing songs for people who like me."
His singing voice was versatile yet unique, a perfectionist who worked tirelessly at sharpening his craft. His stage delivery was mesmerizing for that peaceful and harmonious quality so hard to define and even harder to achieve. His uncompromising taste dictated that he could never have been a highly productive singer. He could not settle with lesser songs, he could not be bothered to learn trendier styles. He suffered dearly for having the audacity to march to his own drums. While he was pursuing some type of heavenly perfection, others have taken his songs and brought them down to the level of the masses. While he was hoping good songs would become popular hits automatically, others have achieved much greater fame and chart success with mass promotions. Consequentially, "Hometown Love" became the only original song people associate him with. Then even that song was forgotten as well in the short memories of the public. No one seemed to remember that graceful figure and that velvety voice. So while no one was looking he sneaked out and decided never to return. When we finally got a chance to step away from the helter-skelter of our daily lives, we suddenly felt an unshakable sense of loss, it was ever-present yet hard to pin down. Suddenly it occurred to us: "Where is he?" At crossroads, we called out his name; On the riverbank, we looked for his reflection. But it was too late, like a naughty little harlequin, he fooled us all. He had been gone for a whole year. Can we ever forgive or forget?
"Who killed our Jeffrey?" A voice shouts in the crowd. Everyone starts to look at each other. Did the public kill him by ignoring his talents for years and not giving him the recognition he deserves? Did his contemporaries in the music business kill him by being more street-savvy and being more skillful at making money? Did Anita Mui kill him by dying so young and so tragically just a few months prior leading to the heart overload? Did his family kill him by not recognizing his illness earlier and forcing him to seek medical attention? Did his girlfriends kill him by breaking up with him and getting married to others leading to depression and loneliness? Did his fans kill him by demanding so much from him adding to the stresses of his life? Did he kill himself slowly by drinking and smoking despite knowing full well he had always been feeble and frail? Everyone seems responsible, yet no one seems responsible. Is this what they call fate?
A few months ago, I decided to dye my hair red. A spontaneous decision, it seemed natural that I would choose red since it suited my pale complexion. Soon afterwards, I saw a pale redheaded boy on an album cover and instantly fell for him, only to discover later that he had flown away to heaven more than a year ago. Although he never knew me, I dedicate this song by Angus Tung to him:
Long Ago in a homeland of fog
There lived a red-headed boy
He was troubled by those nightmares
Because the light could not pass through his window
In the windy moonless castle
There lived a red-headed girl
She did not have beautiful dreams
Because her eyes could not go through the wall
Tenderness Tenderness Tenderness it pieces through my heart
How to make you understand my burning heart
How to let you into that beautiful heart