His Life: A Unique Mixture of Melody, Emotions & Energy
- Year 1924 – Born in Punjab.
- Year 1967 – Received the Padma Shri Award.
- Year 1980 – Left for his heavenly abode.
- Year 2001 – Won Best Singer of the Millennium Award.
- Year 2013 – Won the CNN – IBN poll for Greatest Voice in Hindi Cinema.
“I can’t even utter a word if Almighty God wants it that way. My voice is by his mercy.”
Fondly called Rafi Saab, Mohammed Rafi was one of the best playback singers born in India. The best known Charismatic singer of Indian CInema, Mohammed Rafi is measured as no less than a genius when it comes to diverse styles of music. He recorded over 7000 songs in different languages during his career.
Mohammed Rafi was born on December 24, 1924 in the Kotla Sultan Singh village in Punjab in an orthodox Muslim family. His father was Hajji Ali Mohammad and his mother was Allahrakhi Bai. Rafi loved singing from a very young age and he used to imitate the chants of fakirs near his house and he got the nickname Pheeko. Then his family moved to Lahore during the 1930s. It was in Lahore that his elder brother’s friend, Abdul Hameed recognized his talent and encouraged him to sing.
He also learnt classical music from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan and also from Firoze Nizami. He then began to give public performances as a teenager and he gave his first performance when he was 13 years old.
Mohammed Rafi married his cousin Bashira Bibi and the couple has a son named Saeed. But this marriage ended because she refused to live in India as her parents were killed during the riots of partition and moved to Lahore in 1947. So he married Bilquis Bano the second time. They have four children, namely Nasreen, Khalid, Parveen and Hamid.
Rafi recorded his first song Aji dil ho kaabu mein to dildar ki aisi taisi for Gaon Ki Gori in 1945. He also started singing for top music directors like Naushad and Shyam Sunder. He worked in films like Pehle Aap in 1944, Shahjahan in 1946, Anmol Ghadi in 1946, Deedar in 1951, Deewana in 1952 and Uran Khatola in 1955. Rafi became the voice behind legendary actor Dev Anand and sang for many of his films.
Rafi then worked with the music director O. P. Nayyar on numerous occasions and Mr. Nayyar went on record saying that without Mohammed Rafi he would not have reached the peak of success. He also paired the voices of Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsle on multiple occasions. Most of Shankar – Jaikishan songs were voiced by Rafi and this musical team created memorable songs like Laal Chhadi Maidan Khadi from Jaanwar in 1965, and Main Gaoon Tum So Jao from Brahmachari in 1968. Rafi also worked for Rahul Dev Burman in films like Teesri Manzil in 1966, Caravan in 1971, and Shaan in 1980.
His songs ranged from energetic to smooth romantic and Rafi seemed to be at comfort with both genres at equal measures. He also worked in duets with female playback singers of the time like Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhonsle. He sang duets with other great male playback singers of his time like Mukesh, Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar. He was one of the most well-mannered and professional singers of all time and his unselfish nature was respected by all his contemporaries. He recorded fewer songs in the early 70s. He performed in many international concerts during the late 1970s, including at the Royal Albert Hall and also at Wembley Conference Centre in London.
Awards and Recognition
In 1967, he got the prestigious Padma Shri Award. He won the National Film Awards and the Filmfare Awards in 1977 for the song Kya Hua Tera Wada from Hum Kisi se Kum Nahin with R.D. Burman as the music director.
The final song he recorded was Shaam Phir Kyun Udaas Hai Dost for the film Aas Paas (1981) for the music director duo Laxmikant Pyarelal. He died of a huge heart attack on July 31, 1980 at his residence in Bandra. A two day public holiday was proclaimed by the Government of India in his honor.