Official Artist
Gregory C. Rivers
Actor , Singer
105,938 views| 166  Posts

Alan. One song at a time.

I love to sing, but the last several years have been tough.

Quite some time ago, I had a manager who believed in me and worked very hard to find me singing gigs in Hong Kong and China. We found a few, but it didn't last long. There were two problems. First, the people of China were not yet ready to be entertained by a foreigner singing Chinese songs. Second, they preferred shows where the performer was a 'fun' person and the singing didn't matter so much. Unfortunately, I'm more like Frank Sinatra or Michael Bublé, people where the show is all about the singing.

Much of that was happening around the year 2000 when I first encountered severe exhaustion and the depression (possibly burnout syndrome) that developed as a result. That took several years to recover from. On top of that, it was almost impossible to arrange gigs and jobs outside of TVB unless you had inside connections because TVB always had first priority on your time, and they had the legal right to require you to show up at TVB at the last minute even if you had booked a gig months in advance. This was exactly the reason many movie companies were hesitant to engage my acting services, and is also one of the reasons I declined to renew my contract with them in January this year.

Through the years since 2000, I haven't done a lot of singing. There have been gaps of up to a full year where I haven't sung at all. Being the eternal optimist, I saw something good in this. First, each time I stopped for an extended period of time, it gave me the chance to forget bad singing habits before learning correct ones. Second, I believe that the time wasn't right for me to try to advance a career as a singer. The people of China were not ready for it. A foreigner singing Chinese songs would only be seen as a gimmick, something to giggle at for a few minutes. The welcome wouldn't last long.

The world has changed. A friend told me not too long ago that the people of China need me, a foreigner who sings (well) in their language. Now is the time to make my move, and I'm preparing for it. My singing voice has improved markedly over the least couple of years with Peisha's guidance. I simply need to sing more to strengthen the chords, and I need material.

Whenever people ask me how many songs I know, I have to say "just a few". I have an excellent memory for tunes, but not such a great memory for lyrics. When it came to the question of what to sing, I always wanted to find the songs that the audience would enjoy listening to, and that I would enjoy singing, but never knew how. Now, I've decided to simply find and learn the songs that I know and love. What I sing will become my signature.

So I have begun my research. As often as I can, I'm visiting the Karaoke at APM and listening to every song of the singers I know and respect, searching for the songs I remember (not by name unfortunately) and love. Many of you probably think I'd listen to 張國榮 Leslie's songs first but you'd be mistaken. My first target was Alan Tam 譚詠麟.

Alan was probably more important than any other singer in changing my life and bringing me to Hong Kong. My whole experience with Leslie in Sydney was limited to a wonderful conversation in the car as we drove from Sydney to Canberra and back. My experience with Alan reaches much further than that. When Alan was performing in Sydney in 1986, I became friends with his backup singers, three wonderful attractive girls. They informed Alan that I loved his songs, and he consequently asked me up on stage during rehearsals one day to sing with him. That was an amazing experience.

After arriving in Hong Kong in May of 1987, I lived at a friend's home in Kowloon Tong. Having no job, no friends, and no knowledge of Hong Kong other than what I'd seen in movies, I spent my time walking and exploring. One fateful day, I found myself in a place with lots of trains and a very large squarish building. It was the Hong Kong Colosseum 香港體育館. I didn't know where I was, or what I was looking at. It didn't matter. I was exploring. What happened next though could not have been planned or scrīpted by anyone.

The back door of the Colosseum was open, and several people were seated there taking a cigarette break. As I walked by, they recognised me; me, a 鬼佬 who had been in Hong Kong for just a month!!! They were members of Alan's band, the same band that had played back in Sydney one year before, and they were rehearsing for Alan's home concert. I was invited into the Colosseum to see Alan. One thing led to another, and in July of 1987, I watched 30 of Alan's 31 concerts from backstage, and guest-appeared in two of those concerts! A month later, I was a special guest at Alan's birthday party celebration for his fan club. After that, Alan and I rarely saw each other. I ran into him once during a TV project where we chatted a little. We never have much to say, but he is always the gentleman, and will always be an important part of my life.

So you can perhaps understand why I would choose to listen to Alan's songs first. Don't worry though. Leslie is next on my list, followed by Jacky 張學友, Danny 陳白强, Roman 羅文, etc.

Listening to the songs of these incredible singers is an amazing journey, bringing back memories and feelings. Maybe I'll tell you more about that later. For the time being though, I need to get back to work; vocal training, singing, researching, performing :-)

almost 12 years ago 0 likes  10 comments  0 shares
Kevinli da kevinli
Being a fellow Aussie chinese from Sydney u got my support mate!!!!...Respect to someone who is so into chinese culture!!!...
almost 12 years ago
Photo 16256
It must be nice to be finally be free to pursue other interests, professionally. I wish you well on your singing career. =)
almost 12 years ago
Photo 5614
this sounds exciting... I wish you luck and the best in your singing career... =D
almost 12 years ago
Photo 1967
Good luck! At least you can write the lyrics down on paper and read off it.
almost 12 years ago
Photo 254924
hi, when hear you mentioning about Danny and roman... i can tell you, their songs are just so amazing and do more research in your journey of singing...if ur market is in china based, u need to survey alot wat those china fans taste behind and once u know where to hit up their mood... i can tell u...they are crazy to their idol... So, this is just a little bit comment from me, hope u dun mind, take care and Goodluck in evrythg !!!
almost 12 years ago
Photo 290978
hey~ remember not to give up! you will get there eventually. good luck respect and support you!
almost 12 years ago
Default avatar
heyy Greg, i've just started reading ur blog from the start till this one. it's sad to note that you are undervalued and I personally felt that you definitely deserve more than you got at TVB. Nonetheless, I cant thank you enough for your wholeosme performance and entertainment as I have been thrilled to see you perform since young and spotting you in various cameo roles. My wishes goes out to you and all the best in the next chapter of your life. Hugs!
almost 12 years ago
Mariejost 26 dsc00460
I want to hear about your car ride with Leslie in Australia. Please share that story with us on your blog. There are a number of Leslie fans on AnD from all over the world (I've been roping in the ones I know and getting them to get profiles and have met many others since posting about Leslie (whom I only discovered after the fateful 4-1-03) here on AnD. From what I have read, it seems like Leslie was a very special human-being (apart from being a great actor, singer and entertainer). I would also like to talk to you about any of Leslie's live shows that you attended. I am working on a little research project focused on Leslie's musical shows, and there is woefully little substantive info in languages that I read. (Reading in Chinese is still years off, as I only started spoken Canto last year, and written Chinese is a whole other ball of wax.) As a performer yourself, your insights into Leslie's stage shows would be invaluable.
almost 12 years ago
Photo 120998
hello Marie. my ride with Leslie was a very long time ago, and there's little that I can remember in detail. we drove from Sydney to Canberra on the one day that Leslie could relax from rehearsals. there were two or three crew members with us. Canberra was cold and bare; not much to do. we found a coffee shop (needless to say that no one knew Leslie there which was probably a good break for him), had coffee and then drove back. because he doesn't get to drive much in Hong Kong, he asked if he could drive back to Sydney. how could I deny his request? he drove, and I sat in the seat next to him. we chatted; Leslie in *perfect* English. unfortunately, that's all I can remember. I'm sorry to say that I've *never* seen Leslie perform live except for that one time in Sydney in 1985. very weird, I know, but I've almost never seen any of the performers' concerts here in Hong Kong... very very strange... I need to work on that :-) cheers, Ho Kwok Wing I hope this helps you.
almost 12 years ago
Mariejost 26 dsc00460
Gregory, Thanks for your reply. I understand that it was very long ago. Time has a way of smoothing everything over and, with people who became legendary (especially after we met them), the legend has a tendency to bleed over into our memories and, after a time, we are not sure what we really experienced and what was colored by later developments. In a way, that you remember so little of that day means that Leslie was just being, well, Leslie, and not a divo, idol, star or any of those things that he so soon became. In a way, you were lucky to meet him before the mega stardom and all the headaches that brought for him when his recording career went supernova in 1986 and beyond (not to mention A Better Tomorrow, Chinese Ghost Story, etc. that really broke him as a screen actor). About the shows in HK--well, they certainly seem over the top for this American, and they seem to get bigger and more extreme with each passing year. Spectacle more than musical concert seems to describe what I'm seeing on the DVDs of these shows. I would like to attend a big show sometime, though, just to get a first-hand experience of the incredible fan reaction when their idol takes the stage. Fans worship their idols in Hong Kong (for better or for worse) with greater ardor than anywhere else I've ever seen. There were occasions in the 80s when Leslie was practically jerked into the audience by his ardent fans and a huge tug of war ensued between the security detail and said fans, with poor Leslie the bone they were fighting over, and all the while he's trying to sing and not be torn apart in the struggle. No wonder he stopped getting so close to his audiences in his later years. Oh, that we had such problems. :-) If you want to see a show with more musical content than most, and some pretty cool, far-out and surreal concepts, give Anthony Wong Yiu Ming a try. Of all the HK artists currently performing, his shows have impressed me the most (on DVD). He has great music and is always supported and surrounded by great musicians whom he treats as collaborators and equals on stage. Truly, he is one of HK's finest. I look forward to learning more about you on your blog. Marie
almost 12 years ago


Learn More

Languages Spoken
english, cantonese, mandarin
Location (City, Country)
Hong Kong
Member Since
July 18, 2008