Legendary cai luong singer Thanh Duoc passes away in US

By Mai Nhat   November 16, 2023 | 08:50 pm PT
Thanh Duoc, hailed as the king of the Vietnamese folk music genre cai luong (reformed theater), has passed away in the U.S. aged 89.
Cai luong singer Thanh Duoc. Photo by Vien Kinh

Cai luong singer Thanh Duoc. Photo by Vien Kinh

Thanh Tung, a TV host and the artist’s adopted son, announced Thursday that Duoc passed away in his sleep at his home in San Jose.

Suffering from deteriorating health, he was in the care of his family.

"I made it to see my father’s face one last time before he was taken to the chapel," Tung said. "He looked as good and kind as he was in his prime."

The artist’s family plan to have a private funeral.

Le Thuy, another cai luong artist and a longtime associate and friend of Duoc’s, said she felt bad not being able to bid him farewell. She had wanted to meet him during her recent visit to the U.S. for shows, but his health did not allow him to meet anyone.

"We got emotional every time we saw each other. He sang for me despite suffering from memory loss."

Thuy said Duoc had a classy voice and performing style, which many artists of later generations consider a benchmark, and was a kind person who always took care of younger artists.

"I think of him as the king of cai luong."

Born Chau Van Duoc in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang, Duoc learned cai luong from his uncle, the manager of a cai luong troupe in southern Vietnam.

He first performed on stage at 20 and quickly gained recognition.

Admired for his mellifluous voice and elegant and emotional performing style, he won the prestigious Thanh Tam Award for cai luong artists in 1966.

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