The Songs.

See bottom of page for a complete listing of Yamaguchi's recordings. 

An album from came out in April 2015 and is a great compendium of her songs on two CD's: (it also includes the 2 'mystery' songs recorded in 1944 and only recently discovered):

a link to the site:


I had thought of titling this page "It's the Music, stupid!", because the primary reason that fans love her is THE MUSIC. If you are not a music lover, other aspects of Yoshiko's career will seem contrived or false, since you've reduced her to "constructed movie star" or "pan-asian transnational shape-shifter" or some other popular scholarly jargon. You can pretty much gauge a scholar's response to her by how they feel about her music - and if the appreciation isn't there, be prepared for a negative drubbing of 'the object'.
Yoshiko's singing goes straight to the heart and straight to the heart of the matter: how did she feel about being born at the crossroads of history? listen to her songs and she calls to you across time and place with the gentlest of answers

Minus the music in the 1950's, Yamaguchi might have been limited to your usual exotic-oriental movie-star roles: like strutting around in a tight-fitting cheongsam while waving a gun, or draped in a thin wet towel while stepping out of the proverbial Japanese bath of western dreams, or reduced to massaging a movie co-star. Sadly, this is what happened to Yoshiko 'once the music stopped' and the grimy realty of 'film noir' and it's lurid malcontents took over in the 1950's. But enough of that.

Now for the wonderful songs. So popular that they became the background music of people's lives throughout Asia and the Chinese diaspora: sung at gatherings, re-interpreted by young artists, and eventually becoming 'ever-green' standards of modern Chinese and Japanese music. 

Here is a playlist of 26 of her songs compiled by 'oldindrub':


However, these songs should carry a warning label: "Caution, contents of song may cause ear-worms for weeks, side effects include opium-like addiction and uncontrollable sadness". Ear-worms being those likable tunes that appear in ones mind at dawn and drive you crazy the whole day. You've been warned!


another nice mix of 26 songs:


Here is how a Greek woman recalls the effect of hearing "China Nights" (Shina no Yoru) as a young child listening to the radio in 1950's Crete, of all places:

"It is this [China Nights] was then big hit. Was very touched when I heard, I not only cried, although I did not know why. The voice of the singer, fine-fine and somewhat painful, emitting a distant nostalgia for something unknown what the choir is accompanied by the music that came out of exotic musical instruments sounded somewhat like a complaint, as something very sweet but had now lost and I [being a] kid since I knew little about the world, I heard the song enchanted. 

The song So what listened with so much emotion once US troops in Japan and Korea, went to America and thence came to Europe and finally reached this far. The Greek radio has known to the Greeks 1950 and down there in Crete, Chania, a little girl with ear glued to the radio, she heard and felt the same emotion as that felt [by] some other unknown far away in the Far East. 
At the same emotion I felt today after so many decades, when I discovered this song and learned her story."

if you can translate the page*, Keti writes a beautiful page on the song here: 

*I've had good results with the Google Chrome browser, with attached page translation button

My first choice is "Suzhou Nocturne" (Soshu Yakyoku) from the film "China Nights", composed by R. Hattori. Yoshiko says of the song "when I met Hattori later, he said "I wrote the best song I could for Ri Koran," and I was moved by this. Even now, when I think back, I feel a mixture of emotions: embarrassment about the movie and fondness for the music."
The gentleness and feeling that Li Xianglan put into this love song transcends language and I like to think it was one of her best lullabies to the human race:

and the original slow film version here:

This song is one of the most harmonically complex songs to ever come out of Japan; the above 1953 version has never been equaled for it's beautiful orchestral chords and it's near perfect arrangement. Each interpretation by a different musician has a different chordal structure. 
An example of such is this Hawaiian-style version, taken from the film about the Soong Sisters. 
In her early years, Li Xianglan sang it at a faster tempo, but the slower versions allow the flowering of more beautiful chords and transitions. A perfect example of this reduced tempo is her 1950 'rendition' (now there is a word which has been truly violated by modern Orwellian usage!), which you can hear on the 1950 Live Performance page here:

the last note of the song 'leaves you hanging' (ie, does not resolve the chord progression back to the root note). See the below chart, where the last note is a G (the 5th of the key chord of C). So the listener is left with a sweet nostalgic tension and the hope that this song of love will never end . . .
the simple version played by Aya Ueto in the 2006 Japan TV story of Ri Koran's life:

Now listen to what Percy Faith did to this song (and please, don't notify the song-police):

(this is only a sound file - no picture)

Second choice is "If Only I had met you" or "Too late". 
To my ears, like a Chinese Ave Maria:

Third: the wonderful "Three Years" or "San Nian":

Quitting Opium song:

Candy-peddling song: 

Quitting Opium song:

another one of my favorites, Nepenthe:

Sayon's Bell movie song:

White Orchid song:

Here is her beautiful Moonlight on the River with many of her pictures.

And now - one of her 'signature' songs: Yoshiko sings Evening Primrose live in-concert:

夜來香 translates roughly to Fragrance of the Night, Night Jasmine, Evening Primrose, or Tuberose
That south breeze blows in clear and cold
The nightingale sings quietly through the night
The flowers under the moon are entering a dream
Only that night-fragrant flower
Emit a beautiful fragrance
I love the view of the night
and also love the nightingale's singing
And love even more the dreams of the flowers
And I embrace the night-fragrant flower
Kiss the night-fragrant flower
夜來香 我為你歌唱
Night-fragrant flower, I sing for you
夜來香 我為你思量
Night-fragrant flower, I think of you
啊 我為你歌唱
Ah, I sing for you
And I think of you

this blog has pictures of what an actual evening Primrose looks like from seeds to flowering:

A vietnamese fan posts this nice version with words for karaoke fans:

This next version of Ye Lai Xiang is (amazingly) performed by an American High School choir:

a version by the Hong Kong ensemble troupe organized by Wuhan University humanities Philharmonic Choir joint performance

and finally, probably the most famous 'covers' of this song, by the great Teresa Teng:
Teresa Teng sings Ye Lai Xiang [the YouTube version of this song was removed by the Song Police, but I found this mp3 so you can hear if not see the artistry which made Teresa famous]

a delightful Russian song with a Japanese version also, from the never-seen movie "My Nightingale":

the original hit "When Will You Return" sung by Zhou Xuan:

Yoshiko's beautiful Japanese version of "When will you return" (she also sang it in Chinese):

Another famous rendition of "When will you return", sung by the Taiwanese star Teresa Teng in 1985:

(in China of 1985, they would "listen to Deng in the daytime, but listen to Teng in the evening").
Teresa's Chinese name is Deng Li Jun; tragically she passed away at the age of 40

the song in this next video is "Winter Jasmine", and the english captions about Li's life in China make for an interesting short summary. If you click on this link, you'll also find some great comments from her fans:

This below song is an example of (what to my ears sounds like) an ancient Chinese song, played with ancient Chinese instruments. The song is significant because it so clearly demonstrates what the above 'modern songs' were trying to accomplish with their modern western instruments, modern rhythms, and western chords. I think you can tell that even Li Xianglan was in unfamiliar sonic territory in this song.
A Traditional Chinese Song:

another traditional Chinese song named "Drifting through Life", perhaps recorded during a time of stress in Yamaguchi's marriage with Isamu Noguchi:


For those who want more detailed information on each individual song, this Knoski site lists 90 songs in all (but you'll need to translate it from Japanese): 

Here's a nice collection of about 20 of her song videos in a somewhat strange format: this collection contains some 'remixes' which may appeal to some. The second song in the mix is "Plum Blossom" (filmed along a rocky shore that might well have been in Hong Kong):

A great page from Singapore, for five of her best songs and biographic info:

One of the best English language sources on the web for a short summary of her life-story and many songs of hers (some hard to find on YouTube!): But that's not all you get, there are links to all the "Seven Great Singing Stars" of China (great for listening to Li Xianglan's contemporaries). And then there's also a great summary of how Chinese music was brought into the 20th century by several famous music-composers. I don't know how Chris assembled all this information! 

The Seven Singing Stars (Gong Q. not in photo)

English/Pinyin Name
Alternate Name
Chinese Name
White Light
White Rainbow
Big Sister
Goldfish Beauty                 大鹰淑子
Nasal Voice
Silver Voice
Golden Voice

below: Yao Lee (the last diva remaining) bids Yoshiko Yamaguchi farewell. The two old divas were friends and Yoshiko visited Yao one last time in March, six months before she died. The two of them went to their favorite restaurant in Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel to eat 'Beijing cuisine', and there they hummed the famous songs of Yao Lee's brother, Yao Min. 
both of them in their prime:

this song was posted on the occasion of Yoshiko's 94th birthday by one of her most ardent fans:

"Only You" in sweet Mandarin:

Tokyo Serenade, a great 50's song with a nice swinging beat:

One of Li's great contemporaries: Gong Qiuxia sings the sweet song, Missing Hometown:

Note to all Yoshiko's fans: CD Japan has come out with 2 more CDs of Yamaguchi's music. One is Horichintsairai, which is comprised of her earliest songs in the late 30s. many are unavailable on YouTube or elsewhere and are excellent. The second, Densetsu no Utahime Li Xianglan no Sekai, is a compilation of many of her classics.

Cantonese singer Jacky Cheung's famous heartfelt song "Li Xianglan":

-and here are interesting photos of some of 
Li Xianglan's 78 records.

pretty Japanese geisha are featured in this delightful Percy Faith video:


The following list of songs was compiled by hard-working reader Z. Peter Mitchell; our thanks go out for all his work assembling this:
  1. Black Lily – On Neowing CD #2 Cut #13
  2. Blossoms for a lover - (same as Flowers for a Lover)
  3. blank
  4. Carriage of Night Fog -, Densetsu
  5. China Nights" (Utsu Suzhou nocturne, "hug" insertion song)
  6. Chinese Fiddle in the Moonlight -
  7. Chun-Ying Song - (Spring Nightingale Song))
  8. Cloud of Furusato – on Densetsu
  9. Dark Room – on Suzhou Nights CD
  10. Drifting Through Life Lan Guei Ji Ji -
  11. Eternally (Theme from Limelight) -
  12. Fire Flower occupied - ?
  13. Flower blooming in the heart (day full of 支親 - good song) also on
  1. Flower of Life – On Densetsu – collaboration with male singer
  2. Flower Prynne’s Song (Japanese translation of Non Ti Scordare di Me)– On YY’s Golden Hits,
  3. Forsythia - (same as Winter Jasmine?)
  4. Fragrant Flowers for Her Lover -
  5. Good Waiting Grass –(same as Yoimachigusa) -
  6. Greeting the New Year Flower -
  7. Handshake day full payments – on Horichintsairai
  8. The ("holiday of Tokyo" painting movie, insertion song "Woman of Shanghai") night 來香
  9. Homelessness (Crow with Phoenix) -
  10. I hear the spirit (national consensus of the song) – On Densetsu (Maybe the same as Taiwanese Full Army done with 1 male singer)
  11. -I lily (Utsu "hug" insertion song
  12. I will not fit in a dream (co ayat: Katsuhiko Haida – on YY’s Golden Hits #12
  13. Intention to Month (or Moon) – on YY’s Golden Hits #8
  14. Kojonotsuki/Moon Over Ruined Castle -
  15. Petals of Love (La Vie En Rose) On YY’s Golden Hits
  16. Locked in the Bonds of Love -
  17. Londonderry Air (Japanese translation) -
  18. Lok new Manchuria
  19. Love of Shooting Stars – On YY’s Golden Hits
  20. Lullaby of Beijing Live Performance 1944 -
  21. Manchuria Fun

  22. Theme song "mermaid of passion" painting the movie (mermaid of passion - 10-minute clip that includes other songs, though partial versions; also on YY’s Golden Hits
  23. Monkey King song – from Enoken no Songoku movie -
  24. Month of the Drops – on Densetsu
  25. Moonlit night pieces – on Horichintsairai
  26. Mother Blue Sky -, On Densetsu
  27. Song from My Nightingale (A New Night) -                 
  28. Slow song from My Nightingale (Moy Solovey) -                 
  29. Night to Be Grass (Yoimachigusa) -
  30. Noriyuki Spring -
  31. Nostalgic Tango - unable to access on 11/4/15 available on more than 1 CD
  32. Oath monument of boiling sand (Vow in the Desert) painting the movie (scarlet lily)
  33. On the Night of the Blue Moon -
  34. Outskirts Songs (Suburban Love Song) -                   
  35. Parting from the girl- on Horichintsairai (Appears to be the same as Divorce Ryo Girl)
  1. Quit Opium Song – on Densetsu
  1. Red Water Lily (Akai Suiren) -
  2. Rich Dreaming – on Horichintsairai #3 (Chinese Fuki Shunmu or Kukei Zanmu)
  3. Sad Song (Night)– On Horichintsairai #6
  4. Sakura – see 1950 Live Performance concert
  5. Sakura Bloom Country – On Densetsu
  6. Shina No Yoru movie version -
  7. Swan (Shi ri ra To Shaoshan mouth) -
  8. Shooting star of Love – On YY’s Golden Hits (#9)
  9. Small Spring Sing/Journey to the East - also Yangchun Small Ayat – On Horichintsairai #8
  10. Songs Travelers – probably the same as Wanderers Song below
  1. Spring Rain - Known also as Hugging Me – On YY’s Golden Hits -
  2. Sweet Leilani – see 1950 Live Performance concert
  3. Taihu Lake ship of dreams -
  4. Tango oak
  5. Three Daughters – on Densetsu
  6. Tokyo conga - On YY’s Golden Hits #15 YouTube version apparently has been removed due to copyright issues
  7. Tokyo Romance daughter – On YY’s Golden Hits #16
  8. Tokyo Serenade - YouTube appears to be removed. On YY’s Golden Hits #17. See also 1950 Live Performance
  9. Tuberoses – Japanese - at 3 minute mark Removed from YouTube
  10. Wanderer Song – On Densetsu
  11. When I was Young - (Small Jiko)
  12. When We’d Meet, Never Married -
  13. When Will you Return? (He Ri Jun Zai Lai)-
  14. White Orchid – On YY’s Golden hits
  15. Wine Glass, Into the, Stop - also
  1. Woman Without a Home Town -
  2. Young dream Lee Koran Shochiku movie "Tatakai of the city” – On Densetsu
  3. Your Fantasy - (Fantastic and not want the Shadow)
  4. Yue Shi (Fun) Friend – On Horichintsairai #9
  5. Yutsuki Maiden (Maiden of the Moon) – on Densetsu