June 13th, 2010 00:00
Trinh Cong Son (Trịnh Công Sơn) (February 28, 1939 – April 1, 2001) was a Vietnamese composer, musician, painter and songwriter. He, along with Pham Duy and Van Cao, is widely considered one of the three most salient figures of modern (non-classical) Vietnamese music.
Trinh Cong Son wrote over 600 songs, and, during the 1960s and 1970s, Joan Baez dubbed him the Bob Dylan of Vietnam for his moving antiwar songs. He became one of South Vietnam’s best-known singer-songwriters, after his first hit, Ướt mi (Tearing ‘Lashes) in 1957. He was frequently under pressure from the government, which was displeased with the pacifist’s lyrics of such songs as Ngủ đi con (Lullaby, about a mother grieving for her soldier son). After the reunification in 1975, Son was sentenced by the new communist government, to “retraining” in a labour camp after his family fled to Canada. However, he was eventually honoured by the government and many officials sent their respects with floral tributes. His often melancholy songs about love and postwar reconciliation earned new acceptance and popularity in later years.
There are two singers’ names often associated with Trinh Cong Son. One is Khanh Ly. The other one is Hong Nhung.
Khanh Ly, with her unique vocals, helped popularize Trinh Cong Son music in the early years. They often performed together in South Vietnam University Campuses. The voice and the music seemed to be inseparable.
Later on in his life, Hong Nhung, many years his junior, replaced Khanh Ly’s place until his death.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at his funeral in Ho Chi Minh city, for a spontaneous ad hoc funeral concert, making such a spectacle the largest in Vietnamese history, next to the funeral procession of Ho Chi Minh. His music remains very popular among Vietnamese, old and young.