Roman Tam

Born Roman Tam Pak-sin on February 12, 1945, in Baise, Guangxi, China, award-winning singer Roman Tam – nicknamed Law Man - was a Hong Kong-based singer who is now referred to as the ‘Grandfather of Cantopop.’ He grew up in Guangzhou, but his family relocated to Hong Kong in 1962 in order to get better health care for his mother. Interested in opera, folk, and pop, he entered a folk singing contest in 1964 and came in third place. By 1968, he had formed the rock group Roman & The Four Steps and released an album on EMI Records. His career began to gain traction in 1969 when he began singing Mandopop songs for films as well as releasing his own solo records. In the early 1970s, his work as a playback singer for films led to his signing with Hong Kong television broadcasting network TVB. Roman Tan then relocated to Japan and participated in a Yomiuri TV talent show and became the first non-Japanese artist to win the championship. He returned to Hong Kong in order to update his work permit, and decided to remain there after he achieved success with his themes to Book and Sword Enmity (1976) the Japanese drama Bright Future. Roman Tam’s success allowed him to establish his own style and pursue a career in what is now called Cantopop (Cantonese Pop). After albums that contained songs recorded for TV shows – 1977’s Family Change and 1978’s Xiao Li Feidao, Game of Death, and Strongman – he signed to EMI Records and released his first Cantopop album, Good Songs For You (1979), his first not to rely on his TV music. He became a success with a series of albums for EMI – including Family Love (1980), Longing for Love (1980), Hui (1981), Midsummer Night (1981), Legend of the Condor Heroes (1983), and On Stage (1983) – before becoming disillusioned by EMI and moving to Huaxing Records. Establishing Cantopop as a popular style, Roman Tam was a prolific artist and released a series of albums throughout the 1980s and scored many hit singles including “Love Fantasy” (1984), “How Much Wind and Rain” (1986), “A Friend” (1987), and “Dust” (1988). Roman Tam, who was known for his flamboyant, gender-bending stage persona, continued to achieve success up to his retirement in 1996. During his career, he had received many honors and awards including Top Ten Outstanding Youth (1983), Jinge Golden Melody Honor Award (1985), Artist of the Year Award – Singer Award (1988), Golden Needle Award (1991), Brilliant Achievement Award (1996), Golden Melody Silver Jubilee Honor Award (2002), Lifetime Achievement Award (2002), and Pop Music Honor Award (2002). Roman Tam died of liver cancer on October 18, 2002, at the age of 57. Since his death, there have been many compilations released to celebrate his musical legacy including Eternity (2003), A Generation of Pride (2009), Roman Tam Mandarin Collection (2013), and Roman Tam Cantonese Collection (2021).

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