No rocking chair for Shin just yet
England may have Eric Clapton, but Korea has Shin Joong-hyun.
Shin, 74, known as “Korea’s Godfather of Rock,” was the leading figure in the country’s psychedelic pop and rock culture during the 1960s and 1970s. He managed and starred in Korea’s first rock band, “Add 4,” and produced smash hits including “The Beauty,” “The Woman in Rain” and “A Cup of Coffee.”
In 2009, Shin became the first Asian musician to have a guitar model produced in his name by Fender, a legendary name in rock.
On Dec. 1 and 2, Shin will appear in “The Guitarist Shin Joong-hyun Concert” with his two sons who are also distinguished rock musicians. The concert will he held at Olympic Hall in Olympic Park, eastern Seoul. It will be his first concert in Korea in two years.
JTBC caught up with Shin last Wednesday at a coffee shop in Myeongnyun-dong, central Seoul. His silver hair was long and bobbed: “I even grew my hair to show the real essence of rock.”
Following the release of his first U.S. album, “Beautiful Rivers and Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea’s Shin Joong Hyun 1958-74” in 2011, Shin performed a concert in Los Angeles two months ago.
“Because the Americans had bought all the tickets, the Korean residents weren’t able to come to the concert. I was worried that the Americans wouldn’t understand my songs because the lyrics were in Korean,” said Shin, “But from the first song, ‘The Person Who Has to Leave,’ to the last, ‘Beautiful Korea,’ every single one of them cheered. I wasn’t prepared for an encore, so when they kept asking for it, I ran and hid behind the stage.”
For his forthcoming concert, Shin will play with a four-member band, including his guitarist sons, and a 12-member string ensemble.
“During the first part of the concert, we’re going to play songs that have been popular with the mainstream audience, such as ‘The Return of Sergeant Kim From Vietnam,’ and ‘A Cup of Coffee.’ We added in some violin music to make the songs sound more melodious. In the second part, we will perform psychedelic rock.”
In 2006, Shin announced his retirement, but after receiving the Fender guitar three years later, he picked up where he left off. “I think the heavens were telling me to continue to spread my music to the world,” he said.
Still, Shin’s early career as a musician wasn’t all that bright. In 1975, the singer was banned from public performances for five years after he was arrested for allegedly having been involved in using marijuana. Even after his comeback, the audience turned their backs on him for some time.
In spite of all this, Shin said he was thankful and lucky to have been born in Korea. “Korea is a country of diversity. It has very hot summers and very cold weathers. The dishes are spicy and salty. I believe I am able to make all these sounds because I lived through all the variability and hardships.
“If I played the guitar with physical power in my 30s, I now play based on my mental strength. Back then, I was only able to play with my fingers, but now my heart plays along as well. I really want to show that even after the age of 70, my music has not changed and that I am still capable of playing it well.”
By Song Ji-hye [firstname.lastname@example.org]