Go-go boots, big hair, short skirts…the 60's look and sound had a lot of girls going "yeah, yeah" all over the world. Or, "yeh yeh" or "Yi Yi." While the bigger sellers were obviously from America, England, France and Italy, there were some tuneful chicks from other countries who had some success internationally.
The most endearing one coming from Asia was Rita Chao. That was the name she used on albums exported to oddball music fans around the globe. Back home in Singapore, where she performed in concert, she was better known as Ling Zhu Jun.
I discovered her, under her more famous Chinese name, when I found one of her albums in a Chinatown record store. I was delighted with her cute cover versions of American hits. A few samples were posted a few years ago on the blog. Revisiting lovely Rita, here's her take on the Tina Turner classic, "Proud Mary."
And yes, I've tried very hard to keep from adding corny ethnic jokes to this entry. So all you lacists will have to go elsewhere. Rita's singing career, as for most "yeh yeh" girls...ended when bouffants got deflated, kicky tight bell-bottoms got replaced by distressed blue jeans, and "Wooly Bully" was a nickname for a social disease.
The last I heard about her was that in the late 60's as Ling Zhu Jun, she worked in family-oriented variety shows on stage in Singapore. Like "The Ed Sullivan Show," she'd be on the bill with some dim comedy teams (or is that dim sum comedy teams?) and a few other singers. One of the favorite teams back then was Wang Sa and Yeh Fong, the Wayne & Shuster of the East. Rita/Ling didn't hang around to hit 40 and not have any Top 40 hits…she retired, whereabouts unknown.
RITA CHAO Proud Mary