He shares his amazing tale of promise, disappointment, and late-life success
Mike Yung’s story plays out like a Hollywood movie in reverse, but a new act suggests that he might just be in for a happy ending after decades of passionate hard work. The 56-year-old, born Michael Young, signed with RCA’s record label at just age 15, but after the label ran out of cash, it shuttered, leaving Yung’s album unreleased. For the next 40 years, he’s taken to Manhattan’s subway platforms, most often in the Broadway-Lafayette or the 23rd and 6th station, to perform.
And while it might not be Carnegie Hall, his talent and dedication exposed him to countless people coming and going every day. The era of a “hit record” has come and gone, but Yung has found himself living the life of today’s equivalent – a viral star.
Here’s the man in action, with enough views and retweets to make him a bona fide star in 2017:
The video found its way to Reddit, as these things often do, and Yung himself commented on the post with a little of his story for background: my name is mike yung and I am from brooklynthank u for supporting me.i have found some people who are helping me put out my original songs and my debut album.i have been in the subway for more than 30 years. im still here.i was signed to rca when i was 15 years old. then i was signed with the help of a grammy winning producer teddy vann to etta jame's last label called t electric. the label went bankrupt. my debut album never came out. and this is where i've called home for the last 40 years of my life. i hope my music gets me out.i hope to do an ask me anything soon and asnwer all your questions.god bless.
Here’s Yung backed by a band, pouring his soul into “A Change Is Gonna Come” while making impressive use of the subway’s acoustics.
It didn’t take long to turn his internet notoriety into more traditional gigs, such as this appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden:
Even the train’s noise is no match for Yung’s booming voice. But make no mistake – competing with trains to sing for hours on end is no easy way to make a living, as Yung revealed when he was profiled by Pitchfork last year:
“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.”
He recognizes that he’s the last of a dying breed. Fortunately, for both lucky commuters and those online, they’re beginning to realize it as well, giving him the attention he deserved, but never got, as a young talent. While he might jaunt off to Hollywood for an appearance or elsewhere for a paid gig, he realizes his residency is on the subway platforms.