Hong Kong-born American pop singer Coco Lee, beloved in Asia for her diva riffs and as the voice of Disney’s “Mulan” in Mandarin, died Wednesday, according to an announcement from her family.
The 48-year-old had suffered from depression in recent years, “but her condition deteriorated drastically over the last few months”, sisters Carol Lee and Nancy Lee said in an Instagram post.
She was hospitalised Sunday after attempting to take her own life, they said.
“Despite the best efforts of the hospital team to rescue and treat her from her coma, she finally passed away on 5 July, 2023.”
Born January 17, 1975, in British-ruled Hong Kong, Lee — who also grew up in California — gained prominence in the 90s for her strong voice, crescendoing vocal riffs and soulful ballads.
Her fluency in Cantonese, Mandarin and English helped Lee access a fan base not only in Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan, but also in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in Australia.
She sang the Mandarin version of the 1998 ballad “Reflection” from the Disney film “Mulan”, and recorded “A Love Before Time” as part of the soundtrack for martial arts film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” directed by Ang Lee.
She performed the Best Original Song-nominated number at the 2001 Academy Awards, making her the first singer of Chinese descent to grace the Oscars stage, according to Warner Music China.
In 1999, Lee debuted her first full English-language album, “Just No Other Way”, which featured more R&B-influenced hits like “Do You Want My Love”.
From that album, “Before I Fall in Love” was chosen as the theme song for the Richard Gere and Julia Roberts rom-com “Runaway Bride”.
In her final Instagram post, Lee shared tattoos reading “love” and “faith” scrawled on her arms.
“My 2 favorite words that I carry strongly in my heart which I desperately needed to get thru this incredibly difficult year,” she wrote in the post, published on the final day of 2022.
“You are not alone, no matter how hard life gets, I’m with u,” she wrote to her followers.
According to her sisters, 2023 marked the “30th anniversary of CoCo’s singing career”.
“We are thankful to God for giving us such a kind angel,” they wrote.
“Although CoCo stays in the world for not long a time, her rays of light will last forever!”