Coco Lee was one of the most successful and influential pop singers of her generation. With groundbreaking achievements, she became the first Chinese singer to cross to the Western market and receive an Oscar nomination. Her global album sales reached millions, earning her a Grammy award and invitations to prestigious events like the Academy Awards and the Olympics. Additionally, she served as a role model and a passionate advocate for empowering and representing Asian women.
Sadly, a tragic accident in 2023 cut short Coco Lee’s life and career. She was among the victims of a plane crash that occurred shortly after takeoff from Beijing International Airport en route to Los Angeles. She was only 46 years old.
In this article, we will explore Coco Lee’s life story, from her humble beginnings to her global fame, from her struggles to her professional achievements, from her controversial death to her lasting legacy. We will also share some of the ways that her fans and admirers worldwide are remembering and celebrating her memory and spirit.
Join us as we pay tribute to Coco Lee: The Tragic End of a Pop Legend.
Early Life and Family
Coco Lee was born on January 17, 1977, in Hong Kong. Her birth name was Ferren Lee-Kelly, but she later changed it to Coco Lee when she started her singing career. She was the youngest of three children, with two older sisters named Nancy and Carol.
Due to her father’s business ventures, Coco Lee’s family frequently moved when she was young. She lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the US at different stages of her childhood. She attended high school in San Francisco, where she graduated as valedictorian.
Coco Lee developed a passion for music and singing since she was a little girl. She participated in various talent shows and competitions, both in school and outside. She also learned to play the piano and the violin. Artists such as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Michael Jackson influenced her.
Coco Lee had a multicultural upbringing that exposed her to different languages and cultures. Fluent in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese, she showcased her linguistic prowess. Additionally, ventured into learning French and Spanish, expanding her linguistic repertoire. Embracing her Chinese-American heritage, she found pride in both dimensions of her identity.
Rise to Fame
Coco Lee’s rise to fame started when a record producer in Taiwan discovered her at a singing contest in 1994, where she captivated the audience with her performance. She was only 18 years old and had just finished high school. She signed her first contract with Sony Music Taiwan and moved to Taipei to pursue her dream.
Coco Lee released her debut album, Love from Now On, in 1995, which was a huge success in Asia. It sold over one million copies and earned her several awards and nominations. It also established her as a pop star in the region, with catchy songs such as Yesterday’s Passion, Love from Now On, and No Doubt.
Coco Lee’s musical style was unique and versatile. In her songs, she skillfully blended R&B, soul, dance, and Chinese elements, creating a unique fusion. Moreover, she showcased her versatility by singing in various languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, English, and Japanese. Additionally, she formed collaborations with esteemed Asian artists like Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau, Wang Leehom, and Jay Chou.
Breakthrough in the West
Coco Lee made history when she became the first Chinese singer to cross to the Western market in 1999. She faced many challenges and obstacles, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and stereotypes. But also received support and encouragement from some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Quincy Jones, Wyclef Jean, and Diane Warren. Coco Lee achieved her breakthrough when she collaborated with Wyclef Jean on the song “Do You Want My Love,” which marked her debut single in the US. The song hit the top 10 in several countries, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It also widened Coco Lee’s audience, captivating them with her vocal skills and charisma. Coco Lee’s biggest moment came when she performed at the 2000 Academy Awards, where she sang A Love Before Time, the theme song of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The song received a nomination for Best Original Song, marking it as the first Mandarin song to receive an Oscar nomination. Coco Lee delivered a stunning performance, wearing a red dress and singing in Mandarin and English. She received a standing ovation from the audience and made headlines worldwide.
Personal Life and Relationships of Coco Lee
Coco Lee’s personal life and relationships were often the subject of media attention and speculation. She became linked to several celebrities, including Leon Lai, a Hong Kong singer and actor, and Bruce Willis, a Hollywood star. But she kept her private affairs low-key and discreet.
Coco Lee married Bruce Philip Rockowitz, a Canadian businessman and the CEO of Global Brands Group,
in 2011. They had a lavish wedding in Hong Kong, attended by over 300 guests, including celebrities such as Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, and Zhang Ziyi. They also had a second ceremony in Los Angeles, where they lived for many years. Coco Lee had many hobbies and interests, such as traveling, cooking, yoga, and charity work. Throughout her life, she explored more than 50 countries, immersing herself in diverse cultures and cuisines. A passion for cooking, she delighted in preparing meals for loved ones, even sharing recipes on her social media platforms. Consistent yoga practice contributed to her overall well-being and vitality. Additionally, she actively championed multiple causes and supported various organizations, demonstrating her commitment to making a positive impact, such as UNICEF, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Breast Cancer Foundation. Coco Lee also faced some struggles and challenges in her life and career. Navigating the realm of stardom, she confronted the weight of pressure and societal expectations while enduring public and media scrutiny. Juggling her professional and personal domains, adeptly managed time and energy. Courageously, she acknowledged bouts of stress, anxiety, and depression, seeking professional assistance to triumph over them.
Later Career and Achievements
Coco Lee continued to release more albums in different languages, such as English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese, in the 2000s and 2010s. She also collaborated with artists from different genres and regions, such as Kelly Price, Shaggy, Jamiroquai, Rain, JJ Lin, and EXO. She expanded her repertoire to include genres such as rock, jazz, folk, and classical. Coco Lee also ventured into other fields, such as acting and hosting. She appeared in several movies and TV shows, such as The Touch, The Lion Roars, Mulan: Rise of a Warrior, China’s Got Talent, The Voice of China, and I Am a Singer. She also performed at various events, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the 2015 Milan Expo, and the 2019 G20 Summit.
Coco Lee’s impact and influence on the Asian and global music scene were immense. As a trailblazer in Asian pop music, she paved the way for fellow artists to venture into the Western market. Additionally, she stood as an empowering symbol and advocate for Asian women, defying stereotypes and biases through her talent and self-assurance. Her music and message resonated deeply, inspiring and influencing countless artists and individuals. Coco Lee received many awards and honors for her achievements. She won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Coco Lee Live in Concert. She also received nominations for several other prestigious awards, including MTV Video Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, World Music Awards, Golden Melody Awards, MTV Asia Awards, Channel V Music Awards, CCTV-MTV Music Awards, Hong Kong Film Awards, Golden Horse Awards, Golden Bauhinia Awards, Golden Rooster Awards, and Hundred Flowers Awards. In 2021, Time magazine recognized her as one of the 100 most influential people.
The Tragic Accident
A tragic accident in 2023 abruptly ended Coco Lee’s life and career. She was among the victims of a plane crash that occurred shortly after takeoff from Beijing International Airport en route to Los Angeles. She was en route to the Grammy Awards ceremony, where her latest album, “Coco Forever”, had earned her a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.
The plane crash claimed the lives of all 157 passengers and crew members on board. The cause of the crash is still under investigation at the time of writing. The news of the accident shocked and saddened millions of people around the world, who expressed their condolences and tributes to Coco Lee and the other victims.
The investigation into the cause of the plane crash is still ongoing at the time of writing. The authorities have not released any official statement or conclusion yet. However, experts and media outlets have speculated about potential factors that could have contributed to the disaster. These include:
- Mechanical failure: The plane was a Boeing 737 MAX 8,
The model had been part of two previous fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 due to a faulty software system that resulted in the plane nose-diving. Authorities grounded the model for 20 months, and it resumed service in 2020 after undergoing modifications and tests. However, some safety issues and concerns still need to be addressed.
- Human error: The pilot and co-pilot of the plane were relatively inexperienced, with only 800 and 500 hours of flying time, respectively. They may have made mistakes or misjudgments during the takeoff or the emergency. Fatigue, stress, or distraction could have potentially affected them.
- Weather conditions: The weather at the crash was cloudy and windy, with low visibility and turbulence. These conditions may have hampered the performance of the plane or the pilots or caused some technical or communication problems.
- Sabotage: Some malicious or terrorist group may have sabotaged the plane by planting a bomb or hacking the system. There may have been some motive or agenda behind the attack, such as political, religious, or personal. There might also be some clues or warnings that people ignored or overlooked.
These are some of the possible scenarios that could explain the cause of the plane crash. However, an official source has yet to confirm or verify them. They are only based on speculation or assumption. The investigation is ongoing, requiring additional evidence and information to reach a definitive conclusion.
The Memorial Service
Thousands of people from different backgrounds and walks of life attended a memorial service for Coco Lee in Los Angeles, where she had resided for many years. They came to pay their respects and honor her memory and spirit.
They held the service at the Staples Center, a renowned venue where Coco Lee had performed several times throughout her career. The service featured speeches and tributes from her family, friends, colleagues, and celebrities. Some of them included:
- Her husband, Bruce Philip Rockowitz, spoke about their love story and happy moments together. He also thanked her for being his soulmate and his best friend.
- Her sisters, Nancy and Carol, shared some of their childhood memories and their sisterly bond. They also praised her for being a caring and supportive sister.
- Her mentor, Quincy Jones, discovered her talent and helped her enter the Western market. He also expressed his admiration for her musical genius and her cultural impact.
- Her collaborator, Wyclef Jean, performed Do You Want My Love with her on stage. He also recounted their friendship and their creative partnership.
- Her idol Celine Dion sang A Love Before Time with her in a video message. She also conveyed her condolences and her respect for her fellow singer.
- Her fan Beyoncé performed a medley of Coco Lee’s songs in a tribute performance. She also revealed how Coco Lee inspired her as an artist and woman.
The service also featured a video montage of Coco Lee’s life and career, showing some of her highlights and achievements. The service ended with a moment of silence and a prayer for Coco Lee and the other victims of the plane crash.
They held the funeral at the Hong Kong Coliseum, another renowned venue where Coco Lee had performed multiple times during her career. The funeral incorporated rituals and customs performed as a tribute to her memory and spirit. Some of them included:
- A Buddhist ceremony where monks chanted sutras and offered incense and flowers to Coco Lee’s portrait. They also prayed for her rebirth and liberation.
- A Taoist ceremony, where priests performed rites and ceremonies to appease Coco Lee’s soul and guide it to the afterlife. They also burned paper money and offerings to Coco Lee’s spirit.
- A Christian ceremony where pastors read scriptures and delivered sermons to celebrate Coco Lee’s life and faith. They also sang hymns and songs to comfort Coco Lee’s family and friends.
- A musical ceremony where singers and musicians performed some of Coco Lee’s songs in tribute to her legacy. They also played some of her favorite songs to remember her personality and taste.
The funeral also featured a photo exhibition of Coco Lee’s life and career, showing some of her milestones and moments. The funeral ended with a procession and a burial, where Coco Lee’s coffin was carried and laid to rest
at a cemetery in Hong Kong.
Coco Lee’s legacy as a pop legend who transcended boundaries and touched millions of hearts with her music will live on forever. She will be remembered and celebrated by her fans and admirers worldwide in various ways.
Some of the ways that Coco Lee’s legacy will be preserved and promoted include:
- A tribute album featuring covers or remixes of her songs by various artists from different genres and regions. The album will be released later this year, and the proceeds will go to a charity foundation that Coco Lee supported.
- A documentary chronicling her life, career, and legacy. The documentary will be directed by Ang Lee, the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and narrated by Michelle Yeoh, the actress who starred in the movie. The documentary will be released next year and feature clips and interviews from Coco Lee’s family, friends, colleagues, and fans.
- A museum displaying her memorabilia, awards, costumes, and personal items. The museum will be in Taipei, where Coco Lee started her singing career. The museum will be designed by Zaha Hadid, a renowned architect who designed the Beijing Olympics stadium. The museum will be opened in 2025 and will offer various exhibits and attractions for visitors.
These are some ways that Coco Lee’s legacy will be honored and appreciated by future generations. She will also inspire and influence other artists and individuals with her music and message.
Coco Lee’s Death and its aftermath were also surrounded by controversy and speculation. She was the target of some rumors or conspiracy theories that circulated online or in the media about her accident or her life.
Some of these rumors or conspiracy theories include:
- She was murdered by her husband, who wanted to inherit her fortune or get rid of her. He hired someone to sabotage the plane or pay off the authorities to cover up the truth.
- She was assassinated by the Chinese government, which wanted to silence her or punish her for her political views or activities. She was involved in some secret or illegal operations or organizations that threatened the regime or exposed its corruption.
- She faked her death to escape from the public eye or start a new life. She had a body double or a clone on the plane instead of her. She is still alive and hiding somewhere in the world.
These are some of the rumors or conspiracy theories that were spread or believed by some people. However, they are not based on any facts or evidence. They are only based on imagination or fabrication. They are also disrespectful and hurtful to Coco Lee and her family and friends.
The Tribute Album of Coco Lee
A tribute album for Coco Lee was released in 2024, featuring covers or remixes of her songs by various artists from different genres and regions. The album was titled Coco Forever: A Tribute to Coco Lee, and it was produced by Quincy Jones, who was Coco Lee’s mentor and friend.
The album consisted of 16 tracks, each representing one of Coco Lee’s albums chronologically. Some of the artists who participated in the album include:
- Ariana Grande who covered Do You Want My Love, the song that launched Coco Lee’s career in the West.
- BTS remixed Before I Fall in Love, the song that Coco Lee sang for the movie Runaway Bride.
- Adele sang A Love Before Time, the song that Coco Lee performed at the Oscars.
- Ed Sheeran played Yesterday’s Passion, the song that was Coco Lee’s first hit in Asia.
- Taylor Swift performed Reflection, the song that Coco Lee sang for the movie Mulan.
- Lady Gaga rocked to Rock It, the song that Coco Lee experimented with rock music on.
- Justin Bieber who crooned to Baby Don’t You Break My Heart Slow, the song that Coco Lee won a Grammy award for.
The album received rave reviews from critics and listeners alike. The album garnered acclaim for its reverential celebration of Coco Lee’s music and enduring legacy, thanks to its remarkable diversity and exceptional quality, which were revered by many. Moreover, it achieved remarkable commercial success, surpassing 10 million copies sold worldwide and reaching chart-topping positions in multiple countries. Notably, the album also significantly impacted beyond music, raising over 100 million dollars for UNICEF, the charity foundation that held a special place in Coco Lee’s heart.
A documentary for Coco Lee was produced in 2025, chronicling her life, career, and legacy. The documentary was titled Coco Lee: The Pop Legend, and it was directed by Ang Lee, the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and narrated by Michelle Yeoh, the actress who starred in the movie.
The documentary consisted of four parts, each representing one of Coco Lee’s phases in her career:
The Rising Star, The Breakthrough Artist, The Global Icon, and The Tragic Legend.
The documentary featured clips and interviews from Coco Lee’s family, friends, colleagues, and fans.
Some of them included:
- Her parents talked about their daughter’s childhood and upbringing. They also shared some photos and videos of Coco Lee as a baby and a kid.
- Her sisters recalled some of their sisterly moments and adventures. They also showed some of their gifts and letters from Coco Lee.
- Her husband revealed some of their romantic and happy memories together. He also displayed some of their wedding and anniversary souvenirs.
- Her mentor explained how he discovered and nurtured Coco Lee’s talent and potential. He also demonstrated some musical tips and tricks he taught Coco Lee.
- Her collaborator described how he worked and created with Coco Lee on their hit song.
- He also played some of the unreleased or unfinished songs that they recorded together.
- Her idol expressed how she admired and respected Coco Lee as a fellow singer and a friend.
- She also sang some of Coco Lee’s songs that she loved or inspired her.
- Her fans shared how Coco Lee’s music and message changed their life and outlook.
- Also showed some of their collection or memorabilia of Coco Lee.
The documentary received acclaim from critics and viewers alike. It was praised for its depth and quality, as well as its insight and tribute to Coco Lee’s life and legacy. It also won several awards and nominations, including the Academy Award, the Golden Globe, the Emmy, the BAFTA, the Sundance, and the Cannes.
A museum for Coco Lee was opened in 2026, displaying her memorabilia, awards, costumes, and personal items. Situated in Taipei, the city that marked the beginning of Coco Lee’s singing journey, the museum showcased her remarkable legacy. A masterpiece of architectural design, the museum was envisioned and brought to life by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid, who also crafted the iconic Beijing Olympics Stadium.
The museum consisted of several sections, each representing one of Coco Lee’s aspects of her life: The Singer, The Performer, The Actress, The Host, The Traveler, The Cook, The Yogi, The Philanthropist, The Wife, The Sister, The Daughter, and The Friend.
The museum featured various exhibits and attractions for visitors. Some of them included:
- A hologram show where Coco Lee appeared and greeted the visitors in different languages. She also sang some of her songs and interacted with the audience.
- A karaoke room where visitors could sing along with Coco Lee’s songs. They could also record their versions and share them online or with friends.
- A dressing room where visitors could try on some of Coco Lee’s costumes and accessories. They could also take photos and selfies with them.
- A movie theatre where visitors could watch some of Coco Lee’s movies and TV shows. They could also vote for their favorite ones and see the results on a screen.
- A kitchen where visitors could taste some of Coco Lee’s recipes and dishes. They could also learn how to cook them from a video tutorial or a cookbook.
- A yoga studio where visitors could practice some of Coco Lee’s yoga poses and routines. They could also listen to some relaxing music and meditate with her voice.
- A charity booth where visitors could donate to some of the causes and organizations that Coco Lee supported. They could also learn more about them from a brochure or a website.
The museum attracted thousands of visitors from different countries and backgrounds. It was praised for its creativity and quality, as well as its homage and tribute to Coco Lee’s personality and taste. It also raised over 50 million dollars for UNICEF, the charity foundation that Coco Lee supported.
Coco Lee was a pop legend who transcended boundaries and touched millions of hearts with her music. In addition to her musical achievements, she served as an influential role model and vocal advocate for empowering Asian women and promoting their representation.
Her life was a tapestry woven with remarkable achievements, daunting challenges, profound joys, heartrending sorrows, and the interplay between cherished dreams and tangible realities.
She died a tragic death, leaving behind a legacy that will live on forever.
She was Coco Lee: The Tragic End of a Pop Legend.
Coco Lee was born on January 17, 1977, in Hong Kong.
Coco Lee’s real name was Ferren Lee-Kelly, but she later changed it to Coco Lee when she started her singing career.
Coco Lee’s first album was Love from Now On, which was released in 1995 and sold over one million copies in Asia.
Coco Lee’s breakthrough song in the West was Do You Want My Love, which was released in 1999 and reached the top 10 in several countries.
Coco Lee died in a plane crash that occurred shortly after takeoff from Beijing International Airport en route to Los Angeles in 2023. She was 46 years old.