Thursday, April 23, 2015

Julie Quang

Julie Quang (1951-     ) is a famous Vietnamese singer of Vietnamese and East Indian descent.  Ever since she had first risen to national stardom in 1970, her name has been closely associated with a song called Mua Thu Chet, which had been written by Vietnam's most prolific composer, Pham Duy, and inspired by the French poem, L'Adieu, from Guillaume Apollinaire.  Known for her exotic beauty and ability to sing effortlessly in three different languages:  French, English and her native, Vietnamese, Julie Quang began her career back in Saigon during the 1960s while still a teenager performing at clubs and venues for audiences mostly comprised of Americans.  She was formerly married to Duy Quang, the late famous Vietnamese pop singer and eldest son of Pham Duy.

Born as Rany Angot on January 17, 1951 in Sa Dec, South Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and a French national father of East Indian origin, Julie Quang was the eldest and only one out of six children that had been born in French Indochina.  When she was just eleven months old, Julie and her mother relocated to her father's native Pondichery, India, which would become the birthplace of all of her younger siblings.  Five years later, Julie's mother would return to Vietnam as a young widow with six children to care for after the untimely death of Julie's father.  During this period, the family lived in Can Tho with Julie's maternal grandparents before resettling in Saigon.

Julie Quang with the band,
The Free Ones (Nha Trang, South Vietnam 12-31-1968)
Despite the financial challenges of being a widow with six children to care for, Julie's mother was determined to provide her with a proper French education.  It was during her high school years that Julie started singing with local bands in Saigon for parties and dances to help supplement her family's income.  Her abilities to cover popular songs in both French and English would soon lead her to steady gigs performing at clubs and bars which catered primarily to US military personnel and civilians stationed there during the Vietnam War.  Julie would become one of the most popular Vietnamese entertainers for US troops and toured all around South Vietnam performing at US military bases located in various cities such as Bien Hoa, Nha Trang and Ban Me Thuot.  With her earnings as an entertainer for US troops, Julie was able to take her family out of poverty while still only a teenager in high school.

The year of 1970 would prove to be a turning point in both Julie's professional and personal life.  This was the year when Julie together with her younger sister, Veny, and two of Pham Duy's sons, Duy Quang and Duy Cuong, formed the pop music group known as The Dreamers.  With Julie and Duy Quang as the lead female and male vocalists, the group began performing nightly at the prestigious Ritz Nightclub in Saigon.  She was then formally introduced to the national South Vietnamese audience with the recording of her debut hit song, Mua Thu Chet, billed as Julie Quang.  The decision of her stage name came about upon Julie becoming the wife of Duy Quang followed by the birth of their daughter, Ly Lan, later in the year.

Julie Quang and Duy Quang
Julie Quang's newfound popularity with Vietnamese audiences in the early 1970s quickly turned her into an icon with a sizable fan base that would only expand through the years through her many well-received audio recordings for various major record labels of South Vietnam such as Nhac Tre, Shotguns, Viet Nam, Tam Anh Nghe Thuat and Jo Marcel and, of course, her numerous appearances on Pham Duy's television variety show.  In 1971, Julie Quang's first studio solo album, Tinh Ca Pham Duy, was released.  Among her most popular hit songs prior to 1975 included Ngay Xua Hoang Thi, Nuoc Mat Mua Thu, Tuong Nhu Con Nguoi Yeu, Hai Khia Canh Doi (Both Sides Now), Tra Lai Em Yeu, Chi Can Mot Giot Le (Rien Qu'une Larme), Phuong YeuGiet Nguoi Trong Mong, which was also the featured theme song of the film Tran Thi Diem Chau (1971), a debut starring vehicle for singer/actress Bang Chau, and Bai Tho Vu Quy, a song that was written for Julie by Duy Quang to commemorate their love for one another upon their wedding.  By the end of 1974, Julie Quang and Duy Quang were separated.  Julie then left Vietnam to embark on an extensive European concert tour during that Christmas season.

The Fall of Saigon took place while Julie Quang was still on tour performing for overseas Vietnamese communities in Europe which prompted her decision to remain in France.  Despite their separation, Julie submitted a spousal sponsorship application for Duy Quang and the two were reunited in France a year later.  For the next several years, Duy Quang and Julie Quang tried to salvage their marriage living together in Paris.  In 1980, they would relocate to the United States to be with the rest of the Pham Duy clan.  Their divorce followed shortly thereafter.

Tuan Ngoc & Julie - Chuyen Tinh Buon
(Lang Van - 1985)
After divorcing Duy Quang, she then decided to shorten her professional name to just Julie.  As an overseas Vietnamese singer, Julie had managed to continue with her successful career.  In 1981, Julie and Duy Quang would release a duo album together entitled May Troi Het Mot Doi where she was billed simply as Julie.  In 1982, Julie released her first overseas solo studio album entitled as Buon Oi Ta Xin Chao Mi.  This would be followed by another solo studio album, Voi Voi Yeu Thuong, released in 1984 by the label, Thanh Lan.  That same year Julie appeared on the very first Thuy Nga production of Paris by Night Volume 1 where she performed on two music videos, the first was of a medley combining Ai Ve Song Tuong written by Thong Dat and Em Toi written by Le Trach Luu and the other was of Duc Huy's Tinh Yeu Lan Cuoi.  

The following year she would produce and release the album, Sau Tuong Tu, which comprised of a selection of various popular Chinese and Japanese love songs combined with a several tracks of classical Vietnamese love songs.  This album exemplified Julie's wide diversity as a vocalist.  In addition to Julie's recordings, other guest singers appearing on this album included Duy Quang, Thai Hien and Anh Quy.  Stepping away from her trademark style of doing covers of either French or American popular love songs, Julie takes her fans on an entirely different musical journey with Sau Tuong Tu.   For the first time ever, Julie's fans would be able to hear her sing in East Asian languages other than Vietnamese.  Julie sings in Mandarin on two songs, the title track and Mai Hoa.   On a duet track recorded with Thai Hien, Dan Do, Julie can be heard singing in Japanese on the second verse of the song.  The Vietnamese lyrics to four out of the twelve songs featured on the album were penned by Julie, herself.  Julie had also made history with Sau Tuong Tu, as being the first overseas Vietnamese studio album with a multi-lateral production.  The music arrangements and vocals were recorded in three different studios located in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.  And even the graphic design and photography for the album cover was done in Paris.  Such a budget for production costs of any studio album among overseas Vietnamese singers was then unheard of and viewed as being too risky of a financial gamble.  Looking back, the high quality in production of such projects like Sau Tuong Tu released during the mid 1980s when the overseas Vietnamese music scene was still at its early stages is what has helped set higher standards that have contributed to the further development of the overseas Vietnamese music industry.

For much of the 1980s, Julie remained as one of the highest in demand singers of the overseas Vietnamese music industry with performances at live shows for overseas Vietnamese audiences worldwide and audio recordings for numerous overseas Vietnamese music production labels such as Asia Entertainment, Da Lan, Kim Ngan, Lang Van and Diem Xua.  In 1987, she released her most successful studio album of the decade, Ngan Nam Van Doi, which comprised of a collection of Japanese ballads recorded in original Vietnamese lyrics written by Khuc Lan and Julie, herself.  The massive success of Ngan Nam Van Doi contributed to the popularity of Japanese culture within Vietnamese communities worldwide known as the Japanese Wave, or shortened as J-Wave.  Since the album's release, all ten of the tracks from Ngan Nam Van Doi have become quite popular among Vietnamese music lovers and many of which also have been covered by several other Vietnamese recording artists.

In 1989, Julie followed up the success of Ngan Nam Van Doi with the release of another studio album, Vao Thu Nua Doi, for Diem Xua Productions.  As of 1991, this album has since been re-released on compact disc under a different label, Mimosa, a subdivision of Lang Van.  Vao Thu Nua Doi was a collection of mostly French and American love songs recorded in translated Vietnamese lyrics written by Julie and her former father-in-law, Pham Duy.  The title track was a cover of late Egyptian-born French pop music diva Dalida's Une Femme à 40 Ans, in which Julie had recorded in Vietnamese lyrics she had written based on her own life story.

During the early 1990s, while her career and popularity were still in full swing Julie unexpectedly went on hiatus from live performances and relocated to Hawaii where she lived for a number of years.  In 1991 Julie recorded an album comprised of songs written and composed by Pham Duy entitled as Mua Thu Chet.  All 12 of the songs selected were songs that had initially turned her into a star back in South Vietnam during the early 1970s.  Released under Tran Quoc Bao's label, The Gioi Nghe Si, the production of the entire album took place in the United States with newly recorded vocals by Julie and updated arrangements.  The album turned out to be an enormous commercial success as Julie's many devoted fans from all over the world flocked to Vietnamese music retail stores to purchase this collection that had been unofficially dubbed as The Best of Julie.  Despite the success from the album's high sales during this period Julie would turn down countless offers to perform at live shows choosing instead to remain settled in her new quiet life in Hawaii.

Julie's next studio album recorded the following year would become her most critically acclaimed work to date, as well as her own personal proudest career accomplishment.  For years Julie had been an avid listener of jazz and blues music, but had never attempted to sing professionally in either of these genres.

"I started out singing in English and French, covering American pop music and French love songs at the beginning of my career for many years.  When I finally started to sing in Vietnamese, it was mostly songs written by Pham Duy.  After leaving Vietnam, I recorded a lot of songs with Vietnamese lyrics that were covers of popular Japanese ballads.  So basically, for over twenty years, I had been only a pop singer.  I wasn't sure if my voice was equipped to sing jazz or blues, but I knew my heart and spirit were both in it.  I thought to myself, why not?"  Julie said.

After listening to Natalie Cole's Unforgettable... with Love, Julie was then inspired to do this album entitled as Noi Long.  With arrangements in the style of big band orchestra by accomplished musicians Sy Du and Ngoc Trac, Julie successfully transformed a selection of Vietnamese classic love songs into jazz and blues formats.  Among the songs included on this album were Mat Buon, Tinh Nghe Si and Ghen, in which Julie recorded with an uptempo swing beat.  Released initially by the label Mai Productions in 1992, this album has since been re-released as Ta Hon Nhau after Julie had bought over the rights.  Following the release of Noi Long, Mai Productions came out with another successful project for Julie, a duet album recorded with Trinh Nam SonNiem Nho Cuoi Cung, which featured Julie's memorable rendition of Khuc Tinh Doi Gian (Devaneios).  

During the 1990s decade, Julie would be reintroduced to Vietnamese viewer audiences with a string of memorable appearances on the live show music video series produced by Asia Entertainment.  Among her most notable music video appearances on Asia Entertainment include her performances of Mua Thu Chet, Bai Thanh Ca Buon, Tro Ve Ben Mo, Nua Hon Thuong Dau, Thang 6 Troi Mua, Nguoi Di Qua Doi Toi and a medley of popular French songs together with two other iconic Vietnamese singers, Thanh Lan and Jo Marcel.  Julie would finish out the 1990s decade with a pair of solo studio albums recorded for World Music Productions, Vet Thuong Tinh Yeu (1997) and Trai Tim Sat Da (1998). 
Julie performing Mua Thu Chet on
 Asia Productions' live show music video series

Thanh Lan, Julie and Jo Marcel 

In addition to her achievements as a Vietnamese singer, Julie is also a well-respected Vietnamese lyricist.  Among her most popular penned songs include Bai Ngoi Ca Tinh Yeu (Chanson d'Orphee), Noi Sau, Hoang Hon Tim and Ben Mo.  Her lyrics have been covered by many other Vietnamese artists such as Khanh Ha, Ngoc Lan, Y Lan, Thanh HaThanh Truc and Kieu Nga

Julie's last studio album to date, Hat Khong Dam Buon, was released in 2003.  This would be Julie's second jazz album ten years after the release of Noi Long.  Recorded entirely in Vietnam with arrangements by up and coming musician Nguyen Quang, the son of legendary musician Nguyen Anh 9, Hat Khong Dam Buon is a collection of new compositions that had been written by musician Ngu Yen particularly for Julie to sing.  Just as she had done previously with Noi Long, Julie's vocal performances on this album successfully integrated jazz and blues with Vietnamese music.  It should be noted that the release of this album would mark the first time Julie would be billed under the name, Julie Quang, in over twenty years.

Although Julie's voice is still in top form, since the early 2000s she has pretty much retired from the music business.  She divides her time between residences in Southern California, France and Vietnam.  Despite an absence of more than ten years, Julie still receives offers from various production companies, show promoters and requests from her many fans for her return to the music industry.  Her only response given to such requests has been, "Maybe, we'll see."

Julie Quang is a mother of two grown children.  In recent years, she has become an avid lover of pet animals and nature.  She spends most of her time these days tending to her garden and caring for her three dogs, one cat and several birds.


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