Li Giyu 李谷一was born on Nov 10, 1944 in Kunming, Yunnan province. She graduated from Hunan Art College in 1961. From 1961 to 1974, Li worked as a singer and dancer in the Flower Drum Theatre. Hunan Flower Drum Opera is rooted in the folk music and dance of Hunan Province. In 1970, Li performed Tinker a Pan (补锅). Chinese Officials were not happy, and searched her house, confiscated her property, and sentenced her to hard labor. From 1974 to 1984, she transferred to the Central Philharmonic Orchestra as soloist. In 1980, the Chinese officials criticized Li as "mainland China's Deng Lijun" for singing Township Love (乡恋), considered the first pop song in mainland China. The song was banned for several years.
She sang more than forty songs including many patriotic songs such as "Me and My Motherland" and "Hometown of Beijing." But she also sang a song called "Nostalgia" which was both praised and criticized. Nostalgia was treated as a "bourgeois" song and banned for a period of time. Then came 1983, and the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Li Guyi again sang Nostalgia – on request – in front of the whole nation. Altogether she sang nine songs. From then on, 'Nostalgia' is considered to be the first song in the history of mainland pop music. With her unique vocal style, featuring both modern and folk elements, Li Guyi became the most celebrated singer in China.
"People criticized me by saying that my music was lewd and decadent though I was welcomed by my audience. That was frustrating. I had to sing well and couldn't make any blunders. My audience gave me great support. I insisted on maintaining my own singing style. Every time I performed, my audience would ask me to sing 'Nostalgia'." Li was first married to musician Jin Tielin. After their divorce, she remarried in 1976. Xiao Zhuoneng (肖卓能), was the blessed man. They have one daughter, Xiao Yi.
In 1986 Li Guyi became the Director of China Light Music Ensemble. She later became the Deputy Director of the Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble. Li is actively involved in politics, and was a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Li Guli has toured many countries all around the world and "China My Motherland" is one of her signature tunes because it conveys the deep affection many overseas Chinese have for their homeland. In 1999 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Music Gala jointly organized by China Central Television and MTV. Li was first married to musician Jin Tielin. After their divorce, she remarried in 1976. Xiao Zhuoneng (肖卓能), was the lucky man. They have one daughter, Xiao Yi.
The American Symphony Orchestra Dale Gilbert praised her singing as "the world's most - beautiful voice", and Japanese senior musician Tanimura called her "China's new singing mother. " The American Biographical Institute called her "the most influential singing master." She is one of Mainland China's legends and was the first person to " open up a new precedent folk singing style." Li Giyu has a very special place in Chinese Popular Music History, and is one very unique lady – and singer.