A star is reborn

By Chen Nan(China Daily)
Updated: 2017-05-22 06:59:56

Zheng Jun. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zheng Jun achieved instant fame in 1994 with his debut album, Naked. With his rebellious voice, frank and thought-provoking lyrics and his rugged good looks, Zheng has stood out from other Chinese rockers of his generation who emerged in the early 1990s.

With his best-selling albums and popular hits such as Cinderella, Return to Lhasa and Chinese-language cover of Coldplay's Yellow, he had become ubiquitous.

However, after giving his last tour in 2006, Zheng slowed down and withdrew from the limelight, focusing on fatherhood, yoga and meditation, and a book project.

Recently, however, the rock singer-songwriter appeared at one of the capital's most popular live-house venues, Yugong Yishan, to announce an upcoming national tour, which starts in June from Beijing.

"I never intended to become a rock star and I don't make plans. When my team reminded me that it's been more than 10 years since I last gave a tour and discussed having another tour, I realized how time flies and that it may be a good timing to tour again," says Zheng.

The tour will include several Chinese cities and one of the most significant stops for Zheng is Xi'an, Shaanxi province, which is his hometown.

He will perform there in November, when he turns 50. Other cities on the tour have not been announced yet.

Fans can expect to hear the rocker's past hits. He has titled the tour Eloping, which is also the name of a song on his sixth full-length album, Chang'an Chang'an. Released in 2008, the album was Zheng's last studio album.

In the song Eloping, Zheng sings: "What I dream about is freedom and true love."

The lyrics also mirror what the rocker longs for in real life.

"The fast pace of life gets us stressed. We all want to run away from our lives. Things have changed a lot but that's still what I want," Zheng says.

Zheng Jun recently announced in Beijing that he will launch his Eloping national tour in June.[Photo by Zou Hong/provided to China Daily]

Fatherhood

When asked about his life during the past 10 years, he says that he spends hours doing yoga and meditation.

A father of two-an 18-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son-Zheng has transformed into a caring dad.

Fatherhood also inspired Zheng to launch a graphic novel titled Rock Dog, which is about a Tibetan mastiff that pursues a music dream.

In 2016, the book was adapted into a 3-D animated film, a Sino-US production directed by Ash Brannon-director of Toy Story 2.

"My daughter loves cartoons. The book started with telling that story to my daughter at bedtime. I was not a good father-behaving like a rocker, often going out and drinking all night. I wanted to change and do something for her," says Zheng.

In the book, the dog is named Metal, which is something of a self-portrait of Zheng.

Zheng was born in Xi'an to an intellectual family. His grandfather was a military officer, and his parents were both university professors.

The second child in his family, Zheng learned the violin and painting since childhood.

In 1987, he enrolled to study international trade in Hangzhou Dianzi University, where he was introduced to Western rock music by his American teachers.

In 1992, while waiting for his visa so he could go to the United States to further his studies, Zheng made a bold decision, leaving his home and hitting the road with a small performing band.

"I just wanted to sing and play the guitar then. My family was against my idea but I just left," he recalls.

For nearly a month, he traveled around remote and poor villages in Shaanxi, performing onstage as a singer and guitarist.

He also did other jobs, such as constructing makeshift stages and setting lights.

"The condition was really bad. We had to do everything by ourselves. We even didn't have a formal stage," he says. "But I was very excited to live a gypsy lifestyle."

Zheng performs at a music festival (right) in Sanya, Hainan province, in 2016. Except for occasional gigs like this, he has been out of the spotlight for about a decade. [Photo provided to China Daily]

First song

One night after the show, Zheng was assigned by the boss to guard the performers' equipment overnight. He picked up his guitar and wrote his very first song, Naked, which was the title song of his debut album later.

"I remember that the boss' son came over and asked why I wrote the song and who was going to hear it. I said, 'I was just entertaining myself and it's a good song'," Zheng says.

In 1992, Zheng came to Beijing, where he met Guo Chuanlin, a music agent, who introduced him to Red Star, one of the biggest Chinese record companies then.

Soon, Zheng signed a recording contract with Red Star and his debut album, Naked, made him a rock star.

"He is a very sensitive musician. Girls love him when he sings," says Chinese rock singer-songwriter Gao Qi, who will be a special guest at Zheng's upcoming tour.

Gao, the lead vocalist and songwriter of the rock band Overload, is an old friend.

"Looking back, my life in my 20s was restless and anxious, though I made lots of money and gained fame. It was superficial glory," Zheng says.

In 2009, he met Chinese actress Liu Yun, and a year later, they got married.

He once said that married life changed him and made him a better person.

"My son is a big fan of mine. He likes music and one of his favorite songs is Return to Lhasa," he says.

"I have hundreds of music samples on my cellphone and I often listen to these music pieces with my son."

Contact the writer at chennan@chinadaily.com.cn

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