Mohammed Rafi is a renowned Indian playback singer who dominated Bollywood for over three decades where no singer could equal his mighty classical voice or even come closer to him in his voice quality; that was appreciated across the globe. He was at the height of his career when actors like
Dev Anand, and
Raj Kapoor ruled the industry. He was the most sought after singer in the film industry as he gave his vocal for actors like Dev Anand,
Raj Kumar, Dilip Kumar,
Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra, and Jeetendra. Although he did playback for actors like
Bharat Bhushan and a comedian like
Johnny Walker or Mehmood, his tonal quality suited even
Guru Dutt too. That is why Guru Dutt often repeated Mohammed Rafi in his films.
Rafi is indeed one of the versatile playback singers that the country has produced so far. No singer even now can draw any parallel to his style of singing; He was equally eased in singing qawwalis, ghazals, romantic, bhajans, patriotic, classical or sad numbers. He has received six Filmfare Awards and one National Film Award. He was honored with Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1967.
Rafi was born on 24 December 1924 in Punjab. He moved to Mumbai to establish himself as a singer in 1944. After partition, he decided to stay in Mumbai. He was given a chance to sing in a chorus in his early career days. But it was Naushad who noticed his voice quality and gave him maximum melodious compositions. Thus in his early career, he got associated with music composer Naushad and later in late 1950’s and 1960’s he worked with other composers like S.D. Burman, Ravi,
Shankar Jaikishan, and O.P.Nayyar. After Naushad, it was in every composition of O.P.Nayyar that the singer had given maximum hits.
It is indeed difficult to trace the best songs of Rafi. Rafi has sung maximum songs for Laxmikant-Pyarelal and maximum duet songs with
Asha Bhosle, and
Manna Dey. If S.D. Burman used Rafi’s voice for Guru Dutt and Dev Anand, Naushad allowed the singer to sing for actors like Dilip Kumar and Bharat Bhushan. In association with Shankar Jaikishen, Rafi gave maximum solo hits that were featured on Rajendra Kumar or
Shammi Kapoor. Music composers allowed his voice to get suitable for actors like Raj Kumar and Sunil Dutt. Rafi has sung a patriotic song ‘"Kar Chale Hum Fida" for music composer Madan Mohan, which is played even today on Independence Day or Republic Day function in India.
Rafi’s career graph declined when R.D. Burman allowed
Kishore Kumar to sing for
Rajesh Khanna. However, filmmakers like Nasir Hussain and
Manmohan Desai took keen interest to retain Mohammed Rafi’s voice in films they chose to direct. If Rajesh Khanna had opted for Kishore Kumar, Dharmendra had considered only Rafi’s voice in many of his films. Rafi had influenced many singers like
Mahendra Kapoor and
Sonu Nigam in playback singing. Rafi also sang with contemporary singers like Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor.
Rafi has sung over 28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980. The singer passed away on 31 July 1980. Even today, no singer in India had been able to fill the vacant space that he had left.