Yao Li was born Yáo Xiùyún in 1922, and raised in Shanghai. She started performing on the radio in 1935 at the age of thirteen, and a year later, she recorded her first single with Yan Hua called "Xin xiao fang niu" (新小放牛) She was signed to Pathé Records, and became one of China's Seven Great Singing Stars. Her 1940 version of Rose, Rose, I Love You, later recorded by Frankie Laine in the United States with English lyrics, was her most famous song and won her great popularity. Yao's version was also released in the U.S.A, and in the United Kingdom - her name was given as "Miss Hue Lee". Her high, soft singing style was typical of Chinese popular music of the time.
Her brother Yao Min was also a successfull pop singer, and probably the best-known Chinese pop songwriter of the shidaiqu era. They often recorded as a duo. Yao was a contemporary of Zhou Xuan, and had a stage name of "Silver Voice", in counterpart to Zhou Xuan - "Golden Voice". Yao Li's voice changed with time. Her initial success in Shanghai was partially indebted to the techniques and vocal training of Russian diaspora court musicians. Later, her voice became lower and thicker, full of jazz's lyricism. In the 1950s, however, she began to fall in love with the voice of Patti Page, and developed a new hybrid style based on jazz and country music.
She married Huang Baoluo (黃保羅) in 1947 and ceased performing on stage to devote time to her family. Following the Communist seizure of power in China in 1949, popular music was considered ideologically suspect and Yao fled to Hong Kong in 1950 to continue her singing career there. In addition to releasing hit records, beginning in 1955 with the film 桃花江 (Peach Blossom River), she often acted as a playback singer for movie superstars. Many of the featured songs would also become popular. She stopped singing in 1967 upon the death of her brother but took an executive position with EMI Music Hong Kong in 1969. In 1970, she returned to performing and travelled to Taiwan to perform there for the first time and sought unsuccessfully to sign Teresa Teng to EMI for the Hong Kong market. She retired officially in 1975 but remained supportive of singers such as Wakin Chau.
Over 400 gramophone records have been attributed to her. I believe Yao is still alive today, and aged ninety, but I have not been able to verify this.
Yao Li at You Tube
Mining Watermelons 1956