Saturday, December 23, 2017

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 3. Jo Yong-pil

[Series Index]

3.  Jo Yong-pil [조용필]

Years of Activity: 1972-present. (Last studio album in 2013.)

Discography (studio albums only):

Jo Yong-pil Stereo Hit Album [조용필 스테레오 힛트 앨범] (1972)
Beloved [님이여] (1976)
Jo Yong-pil [조용필] (1980)
Jo Yong-pil Representative Music Collection [조용필 대표곡 모음] (1980)
Jo Yong-pil Vol. 2 [조용필 Vol. 2] (1980)
Jo Yong-pil Third Album [조용필 제3집] (1981)
Jo Yong-pil [조용필] (1982)
Jo Yong-pil 5 [조용필 5] (1983)
Jo Yong-pil Sixth Album [조용필 6집] (1984)
Jo Yong-pil Seventh Album [조용필 7집] (1985)
Jo Yong-pil Vol. 8 [조용필 Vol. 8] (1985)
'87 Love and Life and I! ['87 사랑과 인생과 나!] (1987)
Jo Yong-pil Tenth Album Part I [조용필 제10집 Part I] (1988)
Jo Yong-pil Tenth Album Part II [조용필 제10집 Part II] (1989)
'90-Vol. 1 Sailing Sound (1990)
Cho Yong Pil 14 (1992)
Cho Yong Pil 15 (1994)
Eternally Cho Yong Pil 16 (1997)
Ambition (1998)
Over the Rainbow (2003)
Hello (2013)

Representative Song:  Woman Outside the Window [창밖의 여자] from Jo Yong-pil (1980)

창밖의 여자
Woman Outside the Window

창가에 서면 눈물처럼 떠오르는 그대의 흰 손
When I stand by the window, your white hand wells up like tears
돌아서서 눈 감으면 강물이어라
Turn around and close my eyes, it is a river
한 줄기 바람 되어 거리에 서면
When I turn myself into a breeze of wind and stand on the streets
그대는 가로등 되어 내 곁에 머무네
You turn into a street light and stay by my side

누가 사랑을 아름답다 했는가
Who said love was beautiful
누가 사랑을 아름답다 했는가
Who said love was beautiful
차라리 차라리 그대의 흰 손으로 나를 잠들게 하라
I'd rather, I'd rather have your white hand put me to sleep

In 15 words or less:  The King.

Why is this artist important?
In many ways, Jo Yong-pil is the bridge that connects K-pop of the 1960s into the golden era of the 1990s. Jo is in the last generation of the USFK club musicians, having started his music career as a 19-year-old guitarist for the clubs in 1969. Yet rather than looking back to the 1960s, Jo Yong-pil was a modernizing force in every aspect of music he touched. His debut hit Come Back to the Busan Port [돌아와요 부산항에] from 1972 opened a new era in trot, setting the familiar pentatonic scale onto the rock'n roll-like eight-track beat. His 1985 hit Void [허공] is the first pop song in K-pop history that had a music video. Jo Yong-pil is the only artist in Korean pop music history to have a chart-topping hit in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2010s, spanning the eras of LP, cassette tape, CD and online streaming.

Jo Yong-pil's strength is his versatility. A true singer-songwriter, Jo composed and arranged nearly every one of his hits. (Reportedly, Jo Yong-pil composed Woman Outside the Window in 15 minutes.) Although he debuted as a trot singer, soon he explored rock'n roll, ballad, blues, Korean traditional music, opera and electronica--and made all of them a hit.

But all of this is merely a background to this undeniable fact of his influence: Jo Yong-pil was the greatest pop star in Korean pop music history. For a whole decade in the 1980s, Jo Yong-pil was practically the only show in Korean pop music. When he held a concert, the Seoul Metro added trains and ran them two more hours into the night. To be sure, at least some of his dominance owes to the fact that the Park Chung-hee dictatorship sent many of the most promising pop musicians to prison for trumped-up drug charges, creating a vacuum in competition. But this remains true: no one in K-pop history can match his utter dominance in popularity. No musician in Korean pop music, however cocky and self-assured, dared to challenge Jo Yong-pil's mantle as gawang [가왕]: the "king of music."

Interesting trivia:  Incredibly for such an accomplished musician, Jo Yong-pil did not have the copyright to many of his greatest hits. Based on the pre-modern practice in K-pop that lingered into the early 90s, Jo's record company owned the copyrights. It took a lengthy legal battle and negotiations for Jo Yong-pil to regain the copyrights.

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

1 comment:

  1. I my opinion, simply one of top 5 best singer in the world.


Comments are not available on posts older than 60 days.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...