Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s biggest cultural icons, has died aged 92.
The star died of multiple organ failure at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after she was admitted on 11 January with COVID-19, officials said.
Born in 1929 in pre-independence India, Mangeshkar’s career spanned eight decades – from the era of Frank Sinatra to Adele – having begun singing on stage aged just nine.
At 13 she acted in a Marathi film and also had some small roles in Hindi cinema, but singing was her passion.
She went on to perform an estimated 15,000 songs in more than a dozen languages and was considered the voice of Bollywood, working with nearly every director, actor and actress in the industry.
Fondly revered as the “Melody Queen” and “Nightingale of India”, she enthralled listeners with her lilting voice and range, singing everything from patriotic songs to romantic numbers, both in films and albums.
Her career-defining moment came in the epic historical Mughal-e-Azam, a romantic tragedy that was released in 1960.
The film’s iconic song Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya? (Why fear if you are in love?) is considered one of the defining songs of Bollywood films.
Her song Aye Mere Waten ke Log, commemorating Indian soldiers who died in the 1962 war with China, is only second to India’s national anthem and moved the then-prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears when she sang it in his presence.
Many of the songs she performed in more than 500 films are considered classics, including Aaega Aanewale, Lag jaa gale, Mohe panghat Pe, Chalte chalte, Mere Aawaz hi Meri Pechchan hai, Ajeeb Daastan hai, Neela aasma so gaya, Pani pani re and Jiya Jale.
Popularity extended far beyond India
Her voice was seen as a benchmark of excellence against which every playback singer – whose voice is pre-recorded for use in films – was compared.
Even in her advanced years she sang songs for actresses a third of her age.
Mangeshkar fought for giving playback singers their rightful place in cinema and did not back down on royalty rights even though it meant not working with some of the best music directors for long periods.
She refused to perform in film award ceremonies until a separate category was created for playback singers.
She also raised concerns of diminishing originality when old songs were remixed with new music.
Lauded and honoured at home, Mangeshkar’s popularity extended far beyond India.
She was celebrated not only in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh but also in western countries, Africa and the Middle East.
I am anguished beyond words. The kind and caring Lata Didi has left us. She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled. The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerise people. pic.twitter.com/MTQ6TK1mSO
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 6, 2022
The government of France conferred on her its highest civilian award, Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, in 2007.
‘A void that cannot be filled’
“I am anguished beyond words,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted as he reacted to the news.
“The kind and caring Lata Didi has left us. She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled.
“The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerise people.”
The country’s president Ram Nath Kovind has described her death as “heart breaking”.
Two days of national mourning will be observed with the national flag will flying at half mast, according to government sources.
Mangeshkar, the eldest of five children, never married.
She is survived by her four siblings, who are all accomplished singers and musicians.