Memories of Renowned Lyricist: Richard Lam Chun Keung's Manuscripts
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Biography of Richard Lam

Biography of Richard Lam

Richard Lam (1948 – 2003) was a renowned lyricist in Hong Kong, from his first published lyrical work No longer frown any more (sung by Teresa Carpio) in the early 1980s till his last lyrical work Mr Lonely, Miss Lonely (sung by Samantha Lam), Richard Lam had written lyrics for over a thousand songs. He was also a columnist, cartoonist, and copywriter.

Early Life and Becoming Lyricist

During his secondary school years, Richard Lam became the lead guitarist of The Thunderbirds, a band he formed with his friends. In 1967, his band was the second runner-up at the Talent Quest “Amateur Music Talent Competition” organised by The Star with a cover of Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow. Richard Lam then went to the United States for study in 1968 and returned to Hong Kong for job in 1973 having graduated with distinction. He entered the advertising industry in the late 1970s and worked with the veteran musician Anders Nelsson to produce jingles for advertisements, he made a number of jingles for several brands such as Coca Cola, Sprite, Kodak, etc.; however he recounted: “Writing jingles for advertisements was not fun” because of the “many restrictions.”

Later, Samuel Ho, who held an important position at a record company, recognised Richard Lam’s ability and offered him an opportunity to write lyrics for pop songs. As for the reason to start writing lyrics for pop songs, Richard Lam spoke in one interview in 1985: “Few years ago, most lyrics of pop songs were the works of James Wong, Cheng Kwok Kong, Jimmy Lo, Peter Lai, and Sam Hui, I felt that there should be another way to do it.”

Creation and Visual

Every time Richard Lam started writing lyrics for a new song, he would first listen to the tune for many times, until he “can feel what I should write for this melody, or the direction to write it” before start penning. When he came across a piece of music that could not bring feeling to him, he would put it down for a day or two first, or let his wife listen and see how she feels. Richard Lam needed to visualise the music before he could start writing the lyrics. His wife has written that, music to Richard Lam was “a feeling, with an atmosphere and a visual.” Richard Lam told about the creation of Empty Chair: “When I visualised it I came up with a chair, so I wrote this story.”

Inspiration and Habit

Richard Lam once said about where he got his inspirations when writing: “Sometimes I found them from the streets, sometimes in the bedroom, or even from beautiful women, but mostly I found them from my heart.” His wife also wrote: “No matter which kind of creation, writing prose or lyrics, his inspirations mostly came from interesting things encountered or life stories of his.” Moreover, Richard Lam would “intentionally link up unrelated things, mix them up to come up with something.”

Every time he finished writing the lyrics, he would sing it a few times, to ensure that the tones of the words matches the tune, so no word will come out as sounding like another word in his lyrics; whenever possible he would leave his finished script aside for a night, and re-read again the next day and look for anything worth changing before sending it out.  Regarding swear words and foul languages, Richard Lam said he would not put them in his lyrics, as those are hideous.

Themes and Styles

Richard Lam was called “Devil’s genius”, his works often fascinate people for the wild imagination and boldly creative ways of writing, from “Whenever young me opened the window, I’d see an elephant flying” (from The trio), to the later “Shouldering the bright moon of the night and wink at you”, “Chasing the sun like a bullet” (both from Fun comes first), one can catch a glimpse of his vast and vivid imagination. In the selection of themes, Richard Lam mentioned: “I always like to write about things that give me intense feeling, and let my heart to lead the pen in my hand, that would make it easier to write, and also easier to write better, because one must feel the impression first before impressing others.” Works of Richard Lam covers a wide range of themes, in numerous styles: there is love by the minute, and also love like persistent trickles; there are Lady with flute, Empty chair that remember loved ones; and there is A thousand suns on friendship; Earth sings in unison, The bare hands that fought the katanas set the eyes on the wider world and treasuring lives; while Fun comes first, Stand up are affectionate and energetic; the humourous Mosquito, Can’t stop thinking about, and the different personae in Silly girl, Wicked girl and Playboy, etc. Moreover, Richard Lam also wrote lyrics for theme and incidental songs for films and TV dramas, and also songs for animations, children’s songs, and songs for radio shows, as well as promotional songs for educational campaigns, such as Catching the stars, Insight from a clam and Be happy and healthy.

James Wong once said: “The good thing about Richard Lam’s lyrics? Their life like emotions.” James Wong think that the Richard Lam that people usually see is only “the tip of an iceberg on top of a volcano, what’s beneath the surface is not only deep and vast, but also fiery.” It is from this “fiery” passion that makes Richard Lam kept on writing the classics with “lifelike emotions”, from the 1980s up till 2000s, letting love to be eternal.

Richard Lam’s Selective Chronology


Born on 21 January


His band The Thunderbirds was second runner-up at the Talent Quest “Amateur Music Talent Competition” with the cover of Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.

The Thunderbirds recorded their first 45 rpm vinyl with the songs Polly Sunday and I Do, I Do.


Went to the United States for study


Graduated with a Master's degree in Business Administration, returned to Hong Kong and took up his first job in marketing at the clothing label Crocodile.


Translated some show for TVB as a freelance subtitler

Became a Junior Systems Analyst at the Computer Department of Chase Bank


Married on Valentine’s Day with Agnes Yen


Entered the advertising industry and started working at the advertising company Wong and Lam Advertising Company Limited which was set up by James Wong and Richard Lam’s sister Eunice Lam


Started writing the “Onion Head” column for Ming Pao Weekly

Started writing jingles for advertisements with Anders Nelsson and picking up writing lyrics for pop songs


Released his first published lyrics of the song No longer frown any more, sung by Teresa Carpio

Wrote his first lyrics for theme song of TV drama, sung by Rowena Cortes, an actress from that drama My little darling


Published his first anthology of free verses, Skewered Onion Heads


Birth of his son “Ah Po”

Wrote his first lyrics for a theme song of a film, Eyebrow flash was sung by Rowena Cortes, an actress from that film Happy sixteen, this song went on to be awarded Best Original Film Song at the 2nd Hong Kong Film Awards.

Started work as the Creative Director at Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt Limited


Was one of the judges on the 1st Future Idol Contest organised by Asia Television

Richard Lam was conferred Lyricist with the Most Contribution at the CRHK Best Chinese Song Tournament Award Presentation


Wrote his first English lyrics for the song The Greatest Song for Elisa Chan to enter the Tokyo Music Festival


Started work as the Creative Director of the clothing label Giordano


Moved to Singapore, but frequently commuted between Hong Kong and Singapore for work


Responsible for promotional creations at Next Magazine

Started writing “One man in bed” column in Next Magazine

Conferred CASH Award for Most Played Lyricist in Hong Kong Radio


Conferred CASH Award for Most Played Lyricist in Hong Kong Radio


Conferred CASH Award for Lyricist


Awarded the “Highest No. of Active Works Performed (Author)” of CASH Golden Sail Most Performed Works Awards


Responsible for promotional creations and writing the headlines for Apple Daily

Awarded the “Highest No. of Active Works Performed (Author)” of CASH Golden Sail Most Performed Works Awards


Conferred “Top Ten Lyricist Award” of the 10th Anniversary Award at the 10th Ultimate Song Chart Awards Presentation


Began writing a column at the Apple Daily entitled “Foolish Keung supporting the weak” and called himself “Geezer Keung”


Published his last lyrics for the song Mr Lonely, Miss Lonely sung by Samantha Lam

Passed away in the early morning of 16 November


Posthumously awarded the Golden Needle Award at the 26th Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs Award by Radio Television Hong Kong

Posthumously awarded the Honorable Award of the Jade Solid Gold Best 10 Awards

Posthumously awarded the Professional Achievement Award at the 23rd Hong Kong Film Awards

Posthumously awarded the CASH Hall of Fame Award by the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong


His widow Agnes Yen published Richard Lam Behind the Onion Head under the pen name “Mrs. Onion”


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