Monday, January 17, 2011

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 38. Yoo Jae-Ha

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[Series Index]

38.  Yoo Jae-Ha [유재하]

Years of Activity: 1987

Because I Love [사랑하기 때문에] (1987)

Representative Song:  You in My Arms [그대 내 품에] from Because I Love

그대 내 품에
You in My Arms

별 헤는 밤이면 들려오는 그대의 음성
Your voice heard in star-counting nights
하얗게 부서지는 꽃가루 되어 그대 꽃 위에 앉고 싶어라
To be a crackling white pollen, sitting on your flower
밤하늘 보면서 느껴보는 그대의 숨결
Your breath I try feeling, watching the night sky
두둥실 떠가는 쪽배를 타고 그대 호수에 머물고 싶어라
To ride a fleeting boat, staying in your lake
만일 그대 내 곁을 떠난다면
Should you ever leave my side
끝까지 따르리 저 끝까지 따르리
I will follow to the end, to the end of ends
내 사랑 그대 내 품에 안겨 눈을 감아요
My love you stay in my arms and close your eyes
그대 내 품에 안겨 사랑의 꿈 나눠요
You stay in my arms and share the dream of love

술잔에 비치는 어여쁜 그대의 미소
Your beautiful smile reflected on the glass
사르르 달콤한 와인이 되어 그대 입술에 닿고 싶어라
To be a smooth sweet wine, touching your lips
내 취한 두 눈엔 너무 많은 그대의 모습
Your face, too many for my drunk eyes
살며시 피어나는 아지랑이 되어 그대 곁에서 맴돌고 싶어라
To be a quiet spring haze, circling around your side
만일 그대 내 곁을 떠난다면
Should you ever leave my side
끝까지 따르리 저 끝까지 따르리
I will follow to the end, to the end of ends
내 사랑 그대 내 품에 안겨 눈을 감아요
My love you stay in my arms and close your eyes
그대 내 품에 안겨 사랑의 꿈 나눠요
You stay in my arms and share the dream of love

어둠이 찾아들어 마음 가득 기댈 곳이 필요할 때
When the darkness falls and your full heart needs a place to lean
그대 내 품에 안겨 눈을 감아요
You stay in my arms and close your eyes
그대 내 품에 안겨 사랑의 꿈 나눠요
You stay in my arms and share the dream of love

Translation Note:  This is the most beautiful lyrics in this series so far, and it translates surprisingly well.

In 15 Words or Less:  K-Pop's Mozart.

Maybe he should have been ranked higher because...  First K-pop artist to have a music festival named after him. First K-pop artist to receive a tribute album. Legions of important K-pop artists who worship his music.

Maybe he should have been ranked lower because...  Exactly one album.

Why is this artist important?
Yoo Jae-Ha only had one album released in 1987. On November 1, 1987, less than three months after his album was released, he was tragically killed in a car accident, at age 25. So how influential could he be? The Korean will give three names: Cho Yong-Pil, Kim Hyeon-Sik, Lee Mun-Se. What do they have in common? All three of them are titans of Korean pop music (and ranked on this list somewhere) and ... all three received songs from Yoo Jae-Ha, before Yoo branched out into his solo career.

Yoo Jae-Ha was arguably the first K-pop artist who had been classically trained. He majored in composition at Hanyang University, and could play piano, violin, cello and guitar. His one and only album has an iconic status among the more serious people who enjoy K-pop, as it was the first album in which the musician did everything for the album. And the Korean says everything, he means everything -- write lyrics, compose, play four instruments, master and finish the songs. Yoo's classically inspired, counterpuntal composition elevated Korea's music to another level, serving as a model for the later times. Let's see any of the inane K-pop artists of today could do that.

While Yoo's own life may have been short, he left a massive, lasting impression. Only two years after his death, his family and colleagues established a foundation that held a yearly pop music competition that awarded scholarship to singer-songwriters. Yoo Jae-Ha Music Festival still goes on today; its past winners include influential K-pop artists like Yoo Hee-Yeol [유희열] and Cho Gyu-Chan [조규찬].

In 1997, Yoo Jae-Ha was the first recipient of a tribute album in K-pop history, made for the ten year anniversary of his passing. The luminaries of K-pop such as Shin Hae-Cheol [신해철], Lee Sora [이소라] and Lee Jeok [이적] (again, all of them to be ranked in this list) gladly joined to pay tribute to Yoo. The title song of the album, composed collectively in his memory, says: 이제 그대의 작은 나무/우리에게 큰 그늘을 드리우죠/이 노래 드릴게요/이제 다시 돌아온 그대 위해 [Now your small tree/ gives us a huge shade/ we give this song to you/ who came back to us now].

If you want to talk about influence, no further words are necessary.

Interesting trivia:  Kim Hyeon-Sik [김현식], another titan of K-pop and a close friend of Yoo, would die exactly three years later on November 1, 1990 from liver cirrhosis.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I really don't have anything to add to this post because it's so "right" and "natural" for Yoo Jae Ha to be on the list, except perhaps to lament on how such gifted people always seem to be taken away from us so prematurely.

    But coincidentally, Yoo Jae Ha was discussed on an episode of "Dream High" earlier this week when Park Jin Young's character tells his students:

    "Do you know why Yoo Jae Ha remained a legend? Because when he sings, it sounds like he's speaking to you."

    I don't always agree with Park Jin Young's philosophy, but I thought he hit it right on the mark this time.

  2. It's a tragedy that we never got to see him and his music mature. He was a true musical and artistic genius, the likes of which will be hard to come by again. Even his legacy is only a single album, I think it speaks volumes about his influence when people and artists of all ages still appreciate and adore his music.

  3. I was led to the topic of this artist because of an episode of Dream High were the teacher Jinma refers him as a legend. Its such a tragic he died so early and just listening to this song on this site gives me shivers. HIs delivery has a way of getting to you, his melody so simple yet captivating and the emotions he puts on his vocals is so natural so easy to digest that its no wonder he's so well known in Kpop. Thanks to this site for introducing me to one of the best ones out there.

  4. Even though his voice honestly speaking isn't the best or the strongest. It is still surprisingly enchanting. And touching. Even the scratchy and stretchy/whiny parts of his voice, draws you completely in to his songs. It draws you in to his world. Couple that with his musical prowess. He made magic. Well deserve spot. Wish he was around longer.


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