Monday, January 03, 2011

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 39. Lee Mun-Se

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[Series Index]

39.  Lee Mun-Se (also spelled Lee Moon-Sae) [이문세]

Years of Activity: 1986-present

Discography:

Regular Albums
I am a Happy Man [나는 행복한 사람] (1983)
The Best (1984)
Lee Moon-Sae 3 [이문세 3] (1985)
Lee Moon-Sae 4 [이문세 4] (1987)
Lee Moon-Sae 5 [이문세 5] (1988)
Lee Moon-Sae 6 [이문세 6] (1989)
Lee Moon-Sae VIi [이문세 VIi] (1991)
Lee Moon Sae (1993)
95 Stage with Composer Lee Younghun (1995)
Flower Dance [花舞] (1996)
Sometimes (1998)
Whew = Man and Tree and Respite [休 = 사람과 나무와 쉼] (1999)
Chapter 13 (2001)
Red Undies [빨간 내복] (2002)

Special Albums
Lee Moon-Sae [이문세] (1982)
Lee Moon-Sae's Muttering - Spring Summer Fall and Winter [이문세의 넋두리 - 봄 여름 가을 그리고 겨울] (1986)
Lee Moon Sea (1988)
Golden Live 86-92 [골든 라이브 86-92] (1992)
Love Triangle (with Park Sang-Won and Noh Yeong-Sim) [삼각관계] (1995)
The Insolent Women Original Soundtrack [발칙한 여자들 OST] (2006)
2009 Red Dusk Original Soundtrack [2009 붉은 노을 OST] (2009)

Compilation Albums
Best - Golden 15 (1987)
Golden Memories [추억 골든] (1989)
Golden Best 14 (1990)
Old and New (2002)
Memories (2004)

Representative Song:  The Farewell Story [이별이야기], sung with Go Eun-Hee [고은희], from Lee Moon-Sae 4


이별이야기
The Farewell Story

이렇게 우린 헤어져야 하는걸
Like this, we must depart
서로가 말을 못하고
Although we cannot say a thing
마지막 찻잔속에
In the last cup of tea
서로의 향기가 되어
We wish to become each other's scent
진한 추억을 남기고파
And leave strong memories

우리는 서로 눈물 흘리지마요
Let us not shed any tear
서로가 말은 같아도
Although our words may be the same
후회는 않을거야
We will not regret.
하지만 그대 모습은
But the sight of you
나의 마음을 아프게해
Makes my heart hurt

그대 내게 말로는 못하고 탁자위에 물로 쓰신 마지막 그 한마디
That last word that you could not say but write with water on the table
서러워 이렇게 눈물만
So sorrowful, only the tears like this
그대여 이젠 안녕
My dear, now farewell

우리는 서로 눈물 흘리지마요
Let us not shed any tear
서로가 말은 같아도
Although our words may be the same
후회는 않을거야
We will not regret.
하지만 그대 모습은
But the sight of you
나의 마음을 아프게해
Makes my heart hurt

그대 내게 말로는 못하고 탁자위에 물로 쓰신 마지막 그한마디
That last word that you could not say but write with water on the table
서러워 이렇게 눈물만
So sorrowful, only the tears like this
그대여 이젠 안녕
My dear, now farewell

Translation Note:  Does anyone have a better word for 서러워?

In 15 Words or Less:  Pioneer of "ballad", hugely influential radio personality.


Maybe he should have been ranked higher because...  Being the fountainhead for the "ballad" movement is a huge influence.

Maybe he should have been ranked lower because...  Has he ever been a superstar on the level of Girls' Generation, Yoo Seung-Jun or Lee Seung-Cheol?

Why is this artist important?
One possible definition of a "classic" could be "where all the cliches come from." For a person without a sense of history, the 1970 novel Love Story could be a cliche-filled drollness -- blue blooded boy falls in love with a working class girl who dies from leukemia. But when one realizes that Love Story is the fountainhead of all cliches, it is elevated to the canon through which all modern variations can be understood.

By that definition, Lee Mun-Se is a classic K-pop. In the brief history of K-pop, the Korean wrote that there is no way to determine for certain who made the "folk rock" crossed over to "ballad". But if one had to guess, Lee Mun-Se would be an excellent guess. And among his many hit songs, "The Farewell Story" is the most classic archetype -- a man-woman duet singing sensitive lyrics set to melodious soft rock that progresses up through an emotional climax and down. It is nor surprising that The Farewell Story is one of the most frequently covered songs in K-pop, including a sign language version. Through well-made albums that touched upon the sensitivity that resonates well with Koreans, Lee Mun-Se played a significant role in turning Korea's pop music aficionados away from American/British pop songs to the homegrown version.

But that is not the only influence of Lee Mun-Se worth noting. Lee served as a DJ for a radio program On a Starry Night [별이 빛나는 밤에] from 1985 through 1996. (The program itself started in 1969 and still continues to this day.) This series previously covered the influence of Yoon Do-Hyeon's Love Letter that shaped the K-pop scene. It is fair to say that Love Letter is the television version of On a Starry Night. Generations of Koreans grew up listening to music on On a Starry Night, playing quality live music every night along with entertaining talks. And as the DJ for over a decade, Lee Mun-Se's voice literally raised a generation of Korean adolescents -- earning him a nickname "Minister of Nightly Education."

Interesting Trivia:  Like Lee Seung-Cheol who was ranked just below, a number of Lee Mun-Se's "special" or "best" albums have nothing to do with the artist himself. The relatively primitive intellectual property landscape of Korea in the 1980s meant that record companies could buy the rights of a song, repackage the song and sell it multiple times in whatever manner the record company saw fit. This practice would survive until 1990s, when a certain, highly influential K-pop artist singlehandedly killed it. (Guess who? Hint: He will be highly ranked on this list.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

6 comments:

  1. "This practice would survive until 1990s, when a certain, highly influential K-pop artist singlehandedly killed it. (Guess who? Hint: He will be highly ranked on this list.)"

    Seo Taiji?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am thoroughly enjoying this series, and greatly appreciate all of the thought and consideration and work you've put into it. Including the translations is also interesting to someone who's trying to learn Korean. Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. A gentleman I became friendly with while acting as his ESL tutor gave me a double album "greatest hits" (and now don't I feel bad because Lee Mun-se probably didn't see a won from that) knowing how much I enjoy Korean popular music. I enjoy most of the songs quite a bit and surprised a taxi driver in Seoul because I recognized an Lee Mun-se song on the radio program he was listening to and blurted out, "Lee Mun-se! Lee Mun-se!"

    He definitely deserves a place on the list because his music is influential and he's a great performer/interpreter of the music as well.

    (I'm hoping that Bobby Kim and Yi Sung Yol will appear on your list someday too, even if they're not huge stars!)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This list is highly enjoyable.

    The writing is good, plus I learn some Korean language and some music history to put current pop in context.

    I came here to Korea in 2003 and it's fun to catch up on the older music.

    Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. He should be ranked higher.

    ReplyDelete

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