Dalena: Lệ Đá

After my mother passed, I went through her room and found my pictures she had kept. As I flipped through them, I came across a snapshot of me taken with Dalena. The photo made me nostalgic and wondered what Dalena has been up to all these years. Has she left the Vietnamese-American entertainment behind? I tried to google her name, but nothing about her came up. I miss her. Like millions of Vietnamese Americans, I fell in love with “the blond beauty who sings flawless Vietnamese.” Beyond her singing talent, I had a deep respect for her English translations, which seemed to be underappreciated, of popular Vietnamese ballads.

I went back to my CD collection and realized that I have a few of her solo albums and a handful of her collaborative efforts with other Vietnamese singers including Don Hồ and Mỹ Huyền. I pulled out, Lệ Đá (Stone’s Tears), her debut for Thúy Nga Production, and relived the moment. In the opening title track, a soulful ballad by Trần Trịnh and Hà Huyền Chi, she croons Vietnamese with perfect enunciation and offers her own English version:

Just ask the stone how long it’s been
And ask the distance of the wind
Then ask the street lamp in the night
Shine on more your friendly light
For my love has gone away

I am not sure if I transcribed the fourth line correctly, but she deviates from the original lyrics a bit to match the melody of the tune. Her performance is soul-stirring even though the arrangement is just average. Another notable translation is Đức Huy’s “Như Đã Dấu Yêu” (As If We’ve Loved), in which she pours her heart out on the bridge:

You came to me with all of your soul
I came to you with all of my heart
But it’s too late for love meant to be
For love will stay with me always

Dalena taps into Vietnamese hearts and souls all over the world with her rendition of Y Vân’s “Lòng Mẹ” (Mother’s Love). Her English interpretation is as exceptional as her Vietnamese execution:

Mother’s love is deeper than the sea, so wide
Her soul as sweet as peaceful stream inside
Her words on songs are gentle breezes rise
Rock-a-bye her baby in the moonlit night

I couldn’t hold back my tears thinking about my mother when Dalena sings: “With love from morning until night / All through your life she holds you in her heart.” My mother’s love was unconditional in every sense of the word.