40. Lee Seung-Cheol (also spelled Lee Seung-Chul) [이승철]
Years of Activity: 1986-present
As vocal of the band Born Again [부활]
Rock Will Never Die - Born Again vol. 1 [Rock Will Never Die - 부활 vol. 1] (1986)
Bird, Wall [새, 벽] (2002)
Lee Seung-Cheol Part 1 [이승철 Part 1] (1988)
Lee Seung-Cheol Part 2 [이승철 Part 2] (1989)
Lee Seung-Cheol 2 [이승철 2] (1990)
Wandering [방황] (1991)
Secret of Color (1994)
The Bridge of Sonic Heaven (1996)
Deep Blue (1998)
The Livelong Day (2004)
Reflection of Sound (2006)
Secret of Color 2 (2007)
The Moon is the Dream that the Sun Dreams Original Soundtrack [달은 해가 꾸는 꿈 OST] (1992)
Cheongyeon Original Soundtrack [청연 OST] (2005)
91 Irony Live (1992)
95 Secret Live (1995)
Born Again/Lee Seung-Cheol Joint Concert Live [부활/이승철 Joint Concert Live] (1995)
97 Heaven Live Hall in Se-Jong (1997)
Serious Live 93 (1999)
1999 & Live Best (1999)
20th Anniversary Live in 2005 (2005)
Live Best (2005)
He's Coming: Live Album (2008)
Born Again Best [부활 Best] (1989)
The Best of Born Again (1989)
Hit Bank (1990)
Best of Best (1997)
Forever Love (2003)
20th Anniversary: A Walk to Remember (2005)
The Best Great Hits (2006)
Lee Seung-Cheol Best (2007)
Sound of Double (2007)
No. 1 (2008)
Golden Ballad + Special Live Best (2010)
Representative Song: Rain and the Story of You [비와 당신의 이야기] from Rock Will Never Die (1986), performed live in 2002.
비와 당신의 이야기
Rain and the Story of You
아이가 눈이오길 바라듯이
Like a child wants it to snow
비는 너를 그리워하네
Rain longs for you
비의 낭만보다는 비의 따스함보다
More than the rain's romance, more than the rain's warmth
그날의 애절한 너를 잊지못함이기에
For I cannot forget the sorrowful you of that day
당신은 나를 기억해야하네
You must remember me
항상 나를 슬프게 했지
You always made me sad
나의 사랑스럽던 너의 눈가에 비들은
With rain in the edge of your lovely eyes
그날의 애절한 너를
The sorrowful you of that day
차마 볼수 없었던 거야
I could not bear to look
I cried so much
비에 비 맞으며
Getting rained over rain
눈에 비 맞으며
Getting rained over my eyes
빗속의 너를 희미하게 그리며
Lightly tracing you in the rain
우리의 마지막 말을
Our last words
너의 마지막 말을
Your last words
사랑해 사랑해 사랑해
I love you, I love you, I love you
Translation Note: Simple song, but in a very difficult grammatical form to translate without sounding awkward. Suggestions are welcome.
In 15 Words or Less: Personified history of K-pop, "the Emperor of Live Stages"
Maybe he should have been ranked higher because... Longevity is easy to underestimate.
Maybe he should have been ranked lower because... What, precisely, was his influence? Is there any one thing that he did that particularly stands out?
Why is this artist important?
It is a tricky endeavor to gauge the Lee Seung-Cheol's influence, mostly because he managed to survive for so long in the K-pop scene. The number of albums that Lee made, and the number of hit songs in them, are simply staggering. In fact, Lee might be the only artist in K-pop history who had a number one hit song in three different decades, from 1980s to 2000s. He managed to consistently stay in Korean people's public consciousness throughout his 25 years of career -- for better or for worse. On the other hand, there is no single event or characteristic that succinctly defines Lee. In this case, one can do no better than simply narrate Lee's career, and appreciate its many turns and deviations.
Lee Seung-Cheol made his debut as the vocal for the band Born Again in 1986, the heyday of Korean rock. (Despite the name, Born Again was/is not a Christian band. The "Christian rock" genre is unknown in Korea, although there are many Christians in Korea.) It was a different world back then, as rockers were the greatest stars in K-pop. The screaming fangirls did not chase studio-produced corporate groups, but real musicians who took their music seriously. Musicians were appreciated for their musical skills, not for their looks or the dances choreographed by puppeteers. The top billing of television shows were reserved for rock groups, who did nothing but play music and sing; none of the inane talk shows that fill up Korea's entertaining programming on TV existed back then.
In the field filled with loud noises and screeching voice a la KISS, Born Again distinguished itself with romantic tunes and Lee Seung-Cheol's sensitive voice. On the strength of Lee, Born Again also attracted no only the too-serious rock fans, but the screaming fangirls of the day. Through its second album, Born Again was not only the most popular rock band of the last 1980s, but the most popular musicians in Korea, period.
Lee branched out his solo career, in which he took more of a "pretty boy with good lyrics" tactic. This was again massively successful. There were whispers that he would be the heir to the throne held by a Cho Yong-Pil, a legendary K-pop artist who was slowing down his career. (It should be a surprise to no one that Cho will be ranked very high on this list.)
All of this would meet an abrupt end. In 1990, Lee was convicted of smoking marijuana, and his long road of trials and tribulations began. He was banned from all television appearances for five years. He would marry in 1995 to a high-flying actress Gang Moon-Yeong, but would divorce in two years. Through these disastrous PR events, Lee was utterly banished -- Lee recalls that even a gig singing at a club was difficult to come by.
This was the period in which Lee grabbed his lemons and made delicious lemonade. Because he could not show up on television, he focused his entire energy on live concerts and albums. His natural talent would shine through even without television -- in fact, Lee's presence as the "Emperor of Live Stage" would stand as a welcome contrast to the lip-synching corporate bands that came to dominate the scenes starting mid-1990s. Finally in 2002, Lee reunited with Born Again to sing Never Ending Story, probably the first number one song not sung by a corporate band in around five years.
Lee Seung-Cheol then made a surprisingly smooth transition into the celebrity world of today -- in which artists are not merely judged for their music, but their ability to give an entertaining talk in silly talk shows. He would continue to survive and thrive, while continuing to make music and release albums.
From afar, Lee Seung-Cheol's career might be another colorless and forgettable one, punctuated with some hit songs that were not exactly groundbreaking. But up close, Lee Seung-Cheol serves as a valuable mirror to the history of K-pop in all of its changing iterations. At the end of the day, that he managed to keep his head over the water while others have been swept away might be quite enough to claim a spot here.
Interesting Trivia: While being banned from television, Lee Seung-Chul flirted with acting. His feature film debut was The Moon is the Dream that the Sun Dreams [달은 해가 꾸는 꿈] for which Lee also composed the soundtrack. The film was also the debut feature for a fresh-faced director named Park Chan-Wook -- who is now better known for Oldboy and the Revenge Trilogy. The film, while attracting a small number of enthusiastic fans, was a commercial flop.
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