You can find a diamond in the most unexpected places…
Mike Yung (born Michael Young) is a viral star. A video of him singing the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” has been viewed millions of times. From morning to night, Yung makes his living singing in the subway. Many New Yorkers are familiar with his presence at the station on 23rd and Sixth Avenue, though not all of them may know his name. But years before that ever began, Yung was signed to a label, under the tutelage of producer (and “Santa Claus Is a Black Man” writer and future “Power of Love” co-writer) Teddy Vann.
“I met him at Harlequin Studios in 1975, when I was 15, and he got me a contract with RCA Records in 1975 with a guy named Ron Moseley,” Yung says. “Then I went to CBS, at 18. Then I got another contract with Jim Tyrell, who started a company called T-Electric. He signed Etta James, he signed Love Committee, and he signed Mike Yung.”
Tyrell, a former vice-president at CBS Records (now Sony), founded T-Electric Records in 1979. The label released Etta James’ album Changes in 1980, and according to Yung, his own album was next on the docket. But the moment never came. “Something went wrong, and Tyrell didn’t get to do my album before he went bankrupt,” he says, adding that Vann never was able to help him secure another deal. “Nothing came of that. But you continue to do what you can do to pay your bills and keep your head from going insane.”
For Yung, what he could do—what he could always do—was sing. Following a brief stint working for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the near-lifelong New Yorker has paid his bills with music for the past two decades, both by busking soul and gospel standards and singing in several bands. “I sing with a band called Dejá Blue, my band is called Majestic K-Funk, and also a group called Whispers and Sounds,” Yung says, counting them off on his fingers. “It keeps you going. People I know, that I’ve been with, have been doing it just as long as me. You have to love what you do automatically, because what I do is not easy. I sing against trains for four or five hours.
Mike Young on Big Stage
Mike Yung’s audition America’s got Talent consisted of singing Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” while his guitarist Shunta Sakamoto accompanied him. Although Mel B voted “No”, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Simon Cowell voted “Yes”, sending Mike to the Judge Cuts.
Mike Yung’s Judge Cuts performance consisted of singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. Simon Cowell gave him a standing ovation. Mike’s performance was strong enough for the judges to send him to the Quarterfinals instead of Herbie Russ.
How far can he go? Tell us what you think.