Nothing To My Name by G.E.M

My parents listening to Hong Kong’s news at the dinner table sometimes nets some interesting results, like some familiar strings hitting my ears today in the memorable melody of 一無所有, or Nothing To My Name, a Chinese rock and roll song from the 1980s that I first came across in the original Her Fatal Ways movie (1990).

There’s an interesting little bit of history behind this song and is considered “one of the most influential songs in the history of the People’s Republic of China”, not only being influential to development of Chinese rock and roll, but for its political impact. Chinese youths used it in 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Here’s a little quote from the Wikipedia page surrounding the most well known lines of lyrics, particularly in relation to its political interpretation:

The lyrics near the beginning, “I’ve asked you without end / When will you go with me / But you always laughed at me / for having nothing to my name” (“我曾经问个不休/你何时跟我走/可你却总是笑我/一无所有”) are taken to express the “humiliation and lack of individuality, possession, and personal freedom”, the “sense of loss and disorientation” among China’s youth in the 1980s.

Plus a little more literal meaning:

Throughout the song, the narrator addresses an unidentified girl, asking "When will you come with me", and lamenting the fact that she laughs at him for having nothing to his name. He tells her he wants to give her his hopes and bring her freedom, that "the earth is turning under your feet" and "the waters of life are flowing free", yet she persists in scorning him. He asks why she laughs at the pack he carries on his back, and he wonders why he keeps on going, with nothing to his name. At last, he tells her that he has waited for a long time, and that this is his final plea: he wants to grab her by the hands, to "take you away with me". As he sees her hands tremble, and her eyes "overflow with tears", he asks her, "Do you really mean to tell me, you love me as I am?"

What meaning this song truly has, I don’t believe we’ll ever really know, but the song’s writer, Cui Jian, played it at the Tiananmen Square protests, so it would suggest he agrees with this interpretation to some extent? Either way, it became to be know as his most well-known song.

In the above video, G.E.M, a Hong Kong singer sings Nothing To My Name in her medley with We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, as part of a Mainland China TV show, I am a Singer. As usual people voice both their positive and negative opinions of her performance, but I admit it was the middle part of the medley that intrigued me most, her performance of this old time politically charged song in Mainland China of all places.

As a singer in Cantonese, English and Mandarin, don’t you hate these talented types of people…