Lata Mangeshkar, one of India The biggest cultural icons The singer, who defined music and melody for generations across South Asia, has passed away at the age of 92, her doctor said.
Mangeshkar was admitted to hospital on January 11 after contracting COVID-19 and according to Dr Pratit Samdani, she died of “multiple organ failure” at British Candy Hospital in Mumbai on Sunday.
Together with her younger sister Asha Ponsel – a superstar in her own right – Mangeshkar “The Nightingale” has dominated Bollywood music for more than half a century and is considered by many to be the greatest singer in the Hindi film industry of all time.
Born in Maharashtra on September 28, 1929, Mangeshkar first sang at religious gatherings with her father Dinanath, who was also a trained singer.
In 1942, at the age of 13, she recorded her first song in a Bollywood movie.
After moving to Mumbai, the capital of Indian cinema, she became a star of immense popularity, capturing audiences with her soft, sharp voice and timeless Hindi music for decades to come.
‘A gift from God’
Mangeshkar has sung more than 5,000 songs in more than 1,000 Bollywood films and regional languages, as well as recording devotional and classic albums. Her work spanned around 27,000 songs in dozens of languages including English, Russian, Dutch and Swahili.
“My voice is a gift from God,” she once said to an interviewer.
“When I sang a lullaby, I became a mother, and when it was a romantic song, I became a mistress.”
Her songs, always full of emotion, were mostly sad and mostly deal with unrequited love, but others were sung with patriotic pride.
She sang for early Bollywood stars like Madhubala and Meena Kumari and later went on to give voice to modern industry divas like Priyanka Chopra.
During her career, Mangeshkar has worked with almost all of India’s legendary music directors, including duo Madan Mohan, Naushad, SD Burman, RD Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and AR Rahman, selling tens of millions of records.
She has also won dozens of singing awards, earning a near-saint status in the Bollywood music industry.
Anirudha Bhattacharjee, an author from Kolkata, said the determining factor in why Mangiskar appeals to millions of people is her “immaculate voice”.
“It was beyond definition,” he told Al Jazeera. “The feelings she could embody in her songs came to her very naturally… She didn’t have to work so hard — it was kind of easy, evergreen singing.”
“Another aspect is that everything she sang can be equated with divinity,” he added. “There has never been anyone like her and I don’t think there will be anyone like her in the future.”
Longevity, awards and quirks
Mangeshkar has not been shy about taking a stand when it comes to raising her fees or asking for a share of the royalties earned on her songs.
Her longevity and discipline made her lend her voice to teenage actresses who were fifty years younger than her.
Critics complained that her dominance left little room for new singers to flourish but that her audience remained loyal, ensuring that her songs were dominating the charts.
She was also known for her quirks, such as never singing in her shoes and always writing every song by hand before recording it.
In 2001, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna Medal. India’s highest civilian honor. The French government awarded her its highest civilian honor, Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, in 2007.
India’s home ministry said Mangeshkar will hold a state funeral and the government will observe official mourning with flags for half of the staff until Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described her death as “a void in our nation that cannot be filled”.
“She will be remembered by future generations as a champion of Indian culture, and her brave voice has an unparalleled ability to wow people,” he said in a tweet.
Mangeshkar never married. She is survived by her four siblings, all of whom are accomplished singers and musicians.