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Singer CoCo Lee mourned by family and fans at emotional funeral

KIFI

By Chris Lau, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) — Family and fans bade farewell to singer and actress CoCo Lee at her funeral in Hong Kong on Monday, celebrating a decades-long career that included dozens of successful albums, movies and television shows across the globe.

Lee, a multilingual artist and one of the first Chinese singers to break into the US mainstream, died earlier this month at age 48 after a long battle with depression, according to her family.

Fans braved Hong Kong’s sweltering summer heat to line up outside a funeral home where both a private and public memorial service were held ahead of her cremation.

Dressed in black, many holding bouquets of white flowers, they waited for hours for a chance to say goodbye to their idol.

Thanking guests for their support, Lee’s older sister, Nancy, quoted the star.

“My sister would often say this in her concert: ‘You could have chosen to go anywhere but today you chose to come here to be with me,’” Nancy Lee said during the memorial service, which was streamed online.

“For that I thank you all,” she added, reminding visitors of the singer’s “infectious smile and her kind heart.”

A video tribute also featured a host of stars and movie directors whom Lee had worked with during her career.

Lee was cremated on Tuesday, her body carried out of the funeral facility by eight of her closest friends and colleagues.

‘Always sunny’

Born in Hong Kong and raised in the United States, Lee launched her music career in her birthplace after winning a singing contest. She found success in Asia throughout the 1990s, with a strong presence in Taiwan. She sold millions of albums and sang in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

But it was her R&B sounds infused with hip hop that helped her strike a chord with the US audience in the late 90s. She became the voice of Disney heroine Fa Mulan in the Mandarin version of “Mulan” in 1998.

In 2001, she performed at the Oscars with “A Love Before Time,” a romantic ballad from martial arts blockbuster “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which won best foreign film that year.

Director Ang Lee recalled how the singer vowed to give it her all at that performance in the hope she could help boost Asian representation at the awards.

“Her cute image is still in my heart, always sunny and decent. We really think it’s a great loss,” the director said in a message played at the funeral.

Lee’s Chinese heritage and connection with the US also drew tributes from singers with similar backgrounds, including David Tao, Wang Leehom, Vanness Wu, and rapper Jin Au-Yeung – better known as MC Jin.

In more recent years, Lee grew a huge following in mainland China, after appearing on singing competition shows including “Infinity and Beyond” and “Singer.”

Her funeral became one of the most searched topics on Chinese social media platform Weibo with almost 400 million users following events.

Marvis Lu, 35, was among many fans from mainland China who traveled to Hong Kong for the memorial.

“CoCo has inspired me so much over the years and she helped me through really dark times,” he said.

Catherine Yang, 35, who also came from Shanghai, credited Lee with broadening her musical horizons. Lee was the first person she heard singing in English, the fan said.

After hours of waiting, fans were allowed through in batches to the memorial hall, some sobbing as they laid down floral tributes.

“CoCo Lee is a true legend of the music industry. But just as importantly, she was kind, compassionate and a great friend and mentor to everyone,” said Jonathan Serbin, co-president of Warner Music Asia, in his eulogy.

“The only consolation … is her music will live on for artists and fans around the world in many generations to come.”

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