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Foremost Viet Composer Pham Duy Passed Away

Posted: Jan 27, 2013

 Phạm Duy, a prolific musician whose life and career spanned some of the most turbulent parts of Vietnamese history, passed away Sunday at his home in Vietnam, eight years after returning to his birth country from Orange County. He was 91, and his death came just more than a month after that of his eldest son, singer Duy Quang.

Phạm Duy, whose real name is Phạm Duy Cẩn, left a vast treasure of more than a thousand orginal songs, many of which are known and memorized by generations of Vietnamese. His music is appreciated for having a hint of folk tunes of Vietnam, and his lyrics are among the best uses of Vietnamese poetic rhythm in songs.

Even his personal life is unique and reflects the tumult of modern Vietnam. Born in Hanoi to a progressive writer who advocated for mass education in French-occupied Vietnam, Phạm Duy pursued further studies in Paris, where he also audited classes at the Institute of Musicology.

Returning home, he performed in a touring troupe before joining the Viet Minh during the war against the French. It was during that time that he met just about every top communist official in music and art, stories he would later tell in his four-volume memoirs published in California in 1989.

After 6 years in the jungle, when his wife became pregnant with Duy Quang he left the Viet Minh and returned to Hanoi, then still under French control.

In 1954, when the Geneva Accords gave the Viet Minh control over North Vietnam, Pham Duy went south and settled in Saigon. The communist north branded him a traitor. Even as his songs became hugely popular in the south, they were banned in the north.

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