Cho Yong Pil is one of the titans of the Korean music industry, having debuted in 1968(!). He has a staggeringly long list of hit songs, awards, nominations, and accolades too long to list here; instead, let’s listen to one of his modern classics, Hello.
Hello was the title track for 2013's eponymous album, his first album in a decade following 2003's Over The Rainbow. Despite this long hiatus, Cho Yong Pil’s return took the Korean music scene by storm, with all of the songs from the album quickly climbing the charts to dominate the top positions (into what K-Pop fans often refer to as an “all-kill”). This feat is made even more staggering by his near-complete absence from all of the popular music programs, which mainstream artists regard as virtually mandatory.
This song encapsulates the secret behind Cho Yong Pil’s longevity and success: his willingness to experiment and change with the times. He partnered with hip-hop artist Verbal Jint for Bounce, another hit song from this album, and has a history of producing songs regardless of genre. Throughout his long career, his discography spans trot to funk, and blues to freakin’ opera.
It’s not a stretch to say that Cho Yong Pil single-handedly changed the direction of Korean popular music. While modern K-Pop can trace its roots back to Seo Taiji and the Kids in the early 1990s (I’ll get to them in a future column), they themselves were influenced by Cho Yong Pil and his contemporaries in the 70s and 80s. He is the definition of the living legend and continues to top popularity polls and charts 50 years into his career.