Dick Lee

Lee Peng Boon (b. 1956, Singapore–), popularly known as Dick Lee, is one of Singapore’s best-known personalities in the arts scene. Besides his creative output as a musician, playwright and designer, Lee is also involved in events management and advertising. In addition, Lee sits on the advisory boards of several organisations including the National Arts Council, the National Museum of Singapore and St James Power Station, and was one of the three judges on the reality television programme, Singapore Idol.1 In 2004, Lee was conferred the Cultural Medallion for his achievements in music.

Lee received his education at St Michael’s School, St Joseph's Institution and the Harrow School of Art in the United Kingdom.2

Music career
Lee’s foray into the music industry started when he was in his teens. At the age of 15, Lee took part in talent contests as a member of the bands, Harmony as well as Dick and the Gang (the latter was a group that he formed with his siblings).3

Lee released his first music album, Life Story, in 1974.4 His 1989 album, The Mad Chinaman, hit platinum within three months from its release. It was well received in Japan both commercially and critically. One of the top Japanese producers, Kubota Makoto, offered to produce Lee’s next album.5 As a result, Lee moved to Japan in 1990 to further his musical career, commuting between Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan in the following years. In 1998, Lee was appointed as the regional vice-president of artiste and repertoire of Sony Music Asia, a position he held till 2000.6

The theme of identity features significantly in Lee’s music because of his personal struggle with Singapore’s postcolonial multicultural heritage. Lee fuses musical elements of Asian folk songs with the sensibilities of modern rap and pop tunes, and includes Asian languages as well as Singlish in his songs.7 

The main criticism of Lee’s music centres on the self-parodic and campy nature of his songs, and his detractors single him out to be a mere entertainer than a true champion of pan-Asian music. While the actual ideological impact of his music is open to debate, Lee has made considerable contributions to the music industry in Southeast Asia as one of the pioneers of modern pop in Southeast Asia.8

Lee has been in the music industry for over three decades; he celebrated his 30th anniversary in show business with his final concert at Kallang Theatre in 2004. He has collaborated with many artistes in the region including Hong Kong stars Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, Anita Mui and Sandy Lam as well as Miyazaki Kazufumi of The Boom, a Japanese group. “Home”, which Lee composed for the 1998 National Day Parade, remains a favourite among Singaporeans. Lee’s other National Day track, “We Will Get There”, was written for the 2002 National Day Parade. Lee was also appointed as the creative director for that year’s National Day Parade. Though he no longer performs as a musician, Lee continues to compose music.9

Fashion, events management and other work

Lee’s passion for design started with his creative involvement in his mother’s fashion boutique, Mid-teen. He has since designed for his own labels, and his designs are sold in his boutique, Ping Pong, and Hemispheres, the first store that he and his partner, Alan Koh, set up. He has also created collections for Island Shop and Celia Loe, local brands owned by the department store, Tangs. In 2007, Lee designed jewellery for Flower Diamond Boutique and Lee Hwa Jewellery.10

In addition, Lee was the display director for Tangs department store in 1984, and fashion editor of Female magazine in 1986. He has also scouted and trained local models during his time as a partner at Carrie Models. For the years 2004, 2006 and 2007, Lee was appointed as the consultant creative director for Singapore’s Christmas light-up.11

Between 1982 and 1990, Lee started an events company called Runway Productions. Though he is no longer a shareholder of Music & Movement, the talent management agency that he ran with Lim Sek, a former television manager, the agency continues to manage his entertainment career.12

To date, Lee has written a total of 15 musicals, including Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991), Snow.Wolf.Lake (1997) and Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress (2003). Besides playwriting, Lee has also acted in Nagraland (1992), which he wrote. The production toured Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore in a sold-out season in 1992. Lee is the associate artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre, a position that he has held since 1998.13

Perfect 10 Music Achievement Award for outstanding contribution to Singapore music

1995: Best Original Movie Theme Song (She’s a Man, He’s a Woman starring Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen), Hong Kong Film Academy Awards
1998: Top Local English Pop Song, COMPASS (Composers and Authors Society of Singapore) Awards
1999: Best Original Movie Theme Song (City of Glass starring Leon Lai and Shu Qi), Hong Kong Film Academy Awards
1998, 20022004, 2006: COMPASS Composer of the Year Award
1999: COMPASS Artistic Excellence Award
2003: Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize Arts & Culture Prize
2004: Best Malay Pop Song, COMPASS Awards
2004: Cultural Medallion, Singapore
2004: Best Music (Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress), Life! Theatre Awards
2007: Best Music (Puteri Gunung Ledang), Boh Cameronian Arts Awards
2008: Best Music (P. Ramlee the Musical), Boh Cameronian Arts Awards
2009: Wings of Excellence Award and Top Local English Pop Song, COMPASS Awards
2010: Singapore Tatler Leadership Award for Culture; Community Chest Bronze Award for Individual Fund-raiser
2011: Elle Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award; Community Chest Bronze Award for Individual Fund-raiser
2012: Top Local English Pop Song, COMPASS Awards
Top Local English Pop Song, COMPASS Awards

1974: Life Story

1979: Internationland
1984: Life in the Lion City

1984: Suririam
1984: Bumboat
1985: Return to Beauty World
1986: Songs From Long Ago

1986: Fried Rice Paradise
1988: Connections
1989: Mad Chinaman

1989: When I Play
1990: Asia Minor
1991: Orientalism
1993: The Year of the Monkey
1993: Peace Life Love
1993: Life Story
1993: Hong Kong Rhapsody
1994: Compass
1995: Secret Island
1996: Singapop
1999: Transit Lounge
2000: Everything
2003: Rice
2004: Life (English compilation album)

2004: Stories (Chinese compilation album)
2010: Life Deluxe
2014: 40th Anniversary Collection

 Beauty World (Singapore)

1991: Fried Rice Paradise (Singapore)
1992: Nagraland (Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan)
1993: Hong Kong Rhapsody (Japan)
1993: Fantasia (Singapore, Japan)
1994: Kampong Amber (Singapore)
1994: Mortal Sins (Singapore)
1996: Sing to the Dawn (Singapore)
1997: Hotpants (Singapore)
1997: A Twist of Fate (Singapore)
1998: Snow.Wolf.Lake (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, China)
2003: Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress (Singapore)
2006: Puteri Gunung Ledang (Malaysia, Singapore)
2006: Man of Letters (Singapore)
2007: P. Ramlee the Musical (Malaysia, Singapore)
2010: Fried Rice Paradise (new version)
2013: Lightseeker (Singapore)

2011: Beauty Kings
Rising Son


Hong Xinying

1. “Dick Lee Biography,” Dick Lee Asia, accessed 18 August 2016.
2. Dick Lee, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman (Singapore: Times Editions, 2004), 41, 67, 133. (Call no. RSING 782.14092 LEE)
3. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee Biography.”
4. “Mentor in the Making,” Straits Times, 22 October 2005, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Ida Bachtiar, “A Singapop Breakthrough?” Straits Times, 23 November 1989, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Dick Lee,” Dick Lee Asia, accessed 18 August 2016.
7. Loretta Marie Perera and Audrey Perera, Dick Lee (  ): Creating Endless Opportunities, 2010. (From MusicSG)
8. C. J. W.-L. Wee, “Representing the New Asia: Dick Lee, Pop Music, and a Singapore Modern,” in Transnational Asia Pacific: Gender, Culture, and the Public Sphere, ed. Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Larry E. Smith and Wimal Dissanayake (Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1999), 117. (Call no. RUR 305.3095 TRA)
9. Perera and Perera, Dick Lee (  ).
10. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee.”
11. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee.”
12. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee.”
13. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee.”
14. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee Biography.”
15. “Discography,” Dick Lee Asia, accessed 18 August 2016.
16. Dick Lee Asia, “Dick Lee Biography.”

Further resources
Andrea Tan, A. (1999, December 23). “Dick Lee – Unabashedly Singaporean,” Business Times, 23 December 1999, 2. (From NewspaperSG)


Four Reasons Dick Lee's Brand of Entertainment Is Popular in Japan,” Straits Times, 30 March 1994, 14. (From NewspaperSG)

Joy Loh, “The Music, Madness and Magic of Dick Lee,” BiblioAsia (Jul–Sep 2015)

Mitchell, T. (2004). “ Self Orientalism, Reverse Orientalism and Pan-Asian Pop Cultural Flows in Dick Lee’s Transit Lounge,” in Rogue Flows: Trans-Asian Cultural Traffic, ed. Koichi Iwabuchi, Stephen Muecke, and Mandy Thomas (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004). (Call no. R 303.4825 ROG)

National Songs Are ‘Symbols of Identity’ for Singaporeans,” Straits Times, 28 August 2009, 23. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Lee, Dick, 1956-