The “king” of South Korean rock ‘n’ roll is calling it a day. Shin Joong-hyun, considered the first rock star in South Korea and the country’s most important musical talent in the 1960s and ’70s, on July 15 began a nationwide farewell tour. The tour will wind-down in Seoul this October.
“After 50 years, I felt I was at the limit of performing in Korea and wanted to try something different,” Shin tells Billboard.biz.
Born in 1938, Shin began playing at U.S. army bases in South Korea while still in his teens. In 1961, he started Korea’s first rock band, Add 4. Major success did not come until 1968, when he produced and wrote the material for “Nima,” the debut album of pop act The Pearl Sisters. “Nima” was a huge hit, and its success made Shin a star too. Over the next seven years, Shin and the singers he produced released many of the era’s biggest hits.
But in 1972, at the peak of his fame, Shin refused to write a song glorifying then-president Park Chung Hee. The authorities began harassing Shin, ordering him to cut his hair and censoring his records for being “too noisy” and “vulgar.” Then, in August 1975, he was arrested for using marijuana, and was quickly blacklisted in South Korea.
By the time the ban on Shin was lifted in 1979, local tastes had changed, moving away from rock and instead to disco and the beginnings of the bubblegum pop that still dominates the South Korean charts.
In 1986, Shin opened a live music bar in Seoul, where he worked and played for 20 years. This spring, he sold the bar and moved to the countryside about an hour south of Seoul, where he’s been preparing for his farewell tour and working on other projects.