The Touching Story of How Jay Chou Rose To Stardom
Jay is a Taiwanese pop icon who is adored and worshipped by millions of youngsters all over the world. He has been placed atop a pedestal in the limelight; a pedestal so high that only few people have ever even come close to the altar of that pedestal. Critics called him the songbird our generation with looks to match.
Many may think that Jay is the sort of singer that rose to stardom by loaning a million dollars from his billionaire father to fund his career but in truth, Jay comes from humble beginnings and credit all of his success in the industry to his mother, who was there for him when he felt hopeless, alone, and whose presence in his life lit up the proverbial fire beneath his feet that helped him pace forward into the man he is today.
Jay was born in Tamkang, Taiwan, on the January of the year 1979, to his mother, Ye Hui Mei, who was an art teacher in an elementary school in Taipei and to his father, who was a high school physics teacher. His parents had little to their name, considering their salary as educators, but manage to make ends meet and were content.
When Jay was still in preschool, at the age of 4, his mother enrolled him for piano classes at a Yamaha piano institution. Wanting him to be a talented man, she dug her pockets to get piano classes for Jay at the prestigious music center. The music classes there were not cheap and it was not easy for an elementary school art teacher to afford; but she somehow did.
Jay was always a lively kid; skipping around and playing about most of the time but when he was put in front of a piano, he would become quiet, as if in a trance. It was as if he was mesmerised to the instrument, a perfect concentration to the task and instrument before him.
His talents for piano bloomed quickly and honed over time. He would listen as his piano teacher plays a piece once, then, he would be able to play the song by himself, without being told the chords for the song.The piano teacher realised the potential Jay had in music and complimented Jay’s mother on his skills with the piano.
In order to further develop and hone Jay’s talent in music, his mother decided to spend the family’s entire savings to buy him a good piano. However so, Jay’s father wasn’t too happy about her decision and felt that she was over enthusiastic over a simple compliment from Jay’s piano teacher. Against the father’s wishes, she bought the piano anyway and it made Jay’s dad very upset.
During his third grade, Jay heard one of the most renowned musical pieces; “Swan Lake”, being played beautifully on a cello (A slightly bigger violin) and immediately became mesmerised by the beautiful notes the instrument could play. He then told his mother about his newfound love. She then, once again, bought Jay a cello without her husband’s knowledge and approval.
Naturally, the father responded as he did the first time his wife bought Jay the piano. He was furious that she had no regard for his thought, opinions and say in the matter.Over time, love dissolved from the family and arguments took it’s place in the Ye household.
Jay was a young boy then and could not understand why his father was constantly getting into arguments with his mother. He would be sad whenever they fight.
He even wrote a poem that read:
In my childhood,
Mum gives me so much love,
And Dad only gives me scolding,
If I had a pair of wings,I would fly away with Mum.
When Jay was just in second year of high school, his parents’ love for each other dissolved and they soon parted ways, filing a divorce. 14-year-old Jay had his mind taken over by numb silence, and emotions. He soon lost his path and became a stubborn and rebellious kid.
Jay’s talent in music was parallel to none but the same couldn’t be said for his studies. He neglected his studies, flunked his college entrance exam and could not qualify to enter college. His future looked bleak with no promise of light. Jay and his mother began to question if this was the end of the line.
Fortunately, at that time, Tamkang Secondary School’s music programs were accepting enrolments and Jay’s mum enthusiastically enrolled him to which he secured a spot. Because Jay was a prodigy with both the piano and the cello, had good looks and good at basketball, he soon became the daydream of every girl and the subject of discussion among the other students.
However, Jay was often dead serious and almost nobody ever saw him smiling. Despite having musical achievements of the highest distinction, his academic results were disastrous. Some teachers even went as far as calling him retarded. His English teacher even told his mother that Jay was mentally impaired.
His mother began thinking about Jay’s future and decided to cultivate Jay’s strengths: Music. She hoped that he would be able to earn a modest living by becoming a piano teacher. Never once did she blame Jay for his quiet demeanour and rebellious attitude. She felt or rather, understood that their family’s broken background made him so. Also, never for a single second did she believe that he was mentally impaired like most people said he was. She believed he was gifted, but not in studying, rather in music.
Sure enough, just as Jay’s teacher predicted, Jay did not make the cut to enter a university. Jay’s mother, hell-bent to make sure her son could further his studies, helped him apply a plea to the Taipei University’s Department of Music but was turned down. Jay even tried applying a second time out of desperation but was turned down again.
Jay’s mother and grandmother became extremely worried for Jay’s future, as a University education was the only way that would give him a better life. With nowhere else to turn to, Jay had no choice but to get enlisted for military service.
During his time in military service, he contracted a disease in his spine that left it infected and stiffened, restricting his movements.To make matters worse, the illness had no known cure. Jay could only take medication to relieve the awful pain. Doctors even told Jay that the disease would worsen his spine’s condition over the years, stiffening it to the point he might become paralysed.
After there was improvement in his spine, Jay got a job at a nearby restaurant as a dishwasher. His spine didn’t make his job easy either. Because he always breaks plates due to his spine’s condition, his salary was often deducted by half to pay for the damages to the plates.
The restaurant had a piano in the lounge where a pianist would come and play the piano for guests who were dining at the restaurant for them to enjoy.
One day, after he finished his duties and after the shop closed, Jay went over to the piano and played a famous piece, “Chopin Dance”. He thought no one was there as he was normally the last one to leave the restaurant and close up shop but as it turns out, the boss of the restaurant was there.
He overheard the beautiful performance and was stunned to find that his dishwasher, Jay, was the one who played it.The boss came up with the idea that Jay shouldn’t wash dishes at the back anymore and that instead, he should play the piano in the lounge. No more broken plates, and good music for the patrons. It was a win-win situation.
Jay’s boss recognised Jay’s talent and realised that there are not many people in the world that can play the piano as beautifully as Jay has. He played this to his advantage and invited reporters to the restaurant to see Jay play the piano and maybe write an article or two about him. This helped improve the restaurant’s popularity and profit by leaps and bounds, and Jay was paid fairly good money, working as a pianist in the restaurant.
One of Jay’s friends helped him register to take part in a Taipei Star TV entertainment show called “Super Rookie”.For the competition, Jay wrote a song titled “Dreams Have Wings”, but did not have the confidence to sing the song himself. So, he invited a singer to sing the song for him while he played the piano.
However, the singer did not fully understand the emotion of the song and the entire performance was screwed up. The crowd ended up boo-ing them. It left Jay disappointed and with low self esteem.
Jay’s mother felt his disappointment and fought to find the courage to seek out Jacky Wu, a very popular TV host, and show him Jay’s “Dreams Have Wings” score. Wu was the owner of the Taiwan Alpha Records, a rising record label in the music industry.
He initially did not have a good impression of Jay but changed his mind after taking a look at the score and decided that it was a beautiful song. The score was written in a very neat and orderly manner despite the spectrum of the music being very complicated in nature.
Because of that, Wu saw that Jay had talent and told his mum to make sure he shows up for work the next day.Jay joined the Taiwan Alpha Record Label as a production assistant.
With his mother cheering him, Jay tried to be as likeable as possible. Knowing his own personality, he knew it was not going to be easy. He started smiling a lot, buying colleagues lunch and generally helping them out in any way he can.Gradually, over time, everyone in the company started to have a good impression of Jay, the quiet but diligent and kind young man.
Jay’s mother was always worried about Jay’s indifference and stubbornness. Jay’s personality was one that could offend everyone. She was afraid that he would one day offend or rebel against his superiors in the company, which could get him fired.
Often, Jay’s mother would come during odd hours to the company and bring along pizza and fried chicken for other employees and pleaded them to bear his personality.Over time, she became as familiar with Jay’s colleagues as Jay was with them.
Jay wrote a lot of songs but Wu was not impressed. He felt that the lyrics of the songs Jay wrote were not outstanding enough and that not many people in the industry has appreciation for that sort of music.
Once, Jay took what he thought was his finest work to Wu to have him take a look at it. Wu did not even glance at Jay’s work, crumpled the score and threw it into the trash bin.Jay was so upset with the incident that he cried himself to sleep that night. Never had he felt so unwanted.
He began to ask himself if he should abandon his dream or persevere and continue. But then he remembered all the things his mother did for him and knew that her efforts would be wasted if he were to give up now. He decided to bite the bullet and brave the storm. He wrote many songs every single day, in hopes of reaching the possibility of a better future for him and his mother.
Jay’s mother went to the company every night to see Jay when he was working through the night. There were times where he didn’t come home at all. He was so resolved, hell-bent to succeed. She would often see him working laboriously in passion. She almost broke down in tears a few time at seeing her son suffer like that but always managed to hold back her tears.
She always gave him words of encouragement to keep him motivated and brought back his dirty clothes to wash while bringing him a new set of clean ones.
For more than a month, Wu would see a new song by Jay on his desk every morning without fail at 8 am. He was moved by Jay’s hard work and perseverance and decided to help Jay find some established singers to sing his songs after seeing improvement in his work.
Wu took Jay’s “Tears know” to super star, Andy Lau but was refused in the end.
Shortly after, Wu took Jay’s “Nunchaku” to pop star, A-Mei and she turned down the proposition in a heartbeat.
Wu felt bad and decided to give Jay a last option and let him sing his own songs. However, if he couldn’t pull it off, Jay would have to leave the company and find a job that will actually lead somewhere. Jay was called into Wu’s office one day and Wu solemnly told him: “Jay, I’ll give you 10 days, if you can write 50 songs, I’ll pick 10 of the best, then I’ll help you launch an album.”
Jay burst with joy. He immediately called his mother to tell her the good news and then ran down the street after work to buy a large box of instant noodles for him to have a small celebration of his own.
He knew that this was his last chance. He was determined to finish writing the 50 songs within 10 days and would die of exhaustion before he gave up.Hell-bent to prove himself, Jay worked through sleepless nights, and managed to finish the 50 songs in the proper structure that artists and songwriters had to follow.
The very next day, Jay showed the songs he wrote to Wu and finally, Wu smiled.
He picked out the 10 songs he thought was best and in early 2001, Jay’s first album “Jay ” debuted.
The recording company did not have high hopes for Jay’s album and was just hoping that they could at least reap enough profit to recover the cost of production for Jay’s album.
However, the tables turned for the better when Jay’s album hit Taiwan like a restless typhoon, sweeping through at a maddening pace. His album became an instant hit. Jay was now a star. “Jay” won awards like Best Pop concert in Taiwan, album of the year, best producer, and three awards for best composer.
Jay’s success was unexpected by the company and the music industry was shaken by Jay’s sudden rise to stardom.
Jay’s second album “Fantasy” which was released shortly after was an even bigger success that swept through the mainland, Hon Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and the entire Chinese music industry, sweeping numerous awards, one after another.
Jay finally succeeded after the many years of suffering.
Every single day, he gives thanks to his mother whose support and love was the backbone of his success.
Now that Jay has become a millionaire, he gives all wealth to his mother to manage.
Even though he now has his own mansion, he still goes home every weekend to spend time with his mother and grandmother.
And as time goes by, Jay’s mother’s memories of her ex-husband’s negativity, Jay’s teachers’ opinions of Jay and all the hardship they endured together all dissolve from her mind as she looks at Jay and feels proud that she never once, doubted her own son.
Jay is now an artist, actor, and music producer with a net worth of $212 million (USD).