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Legendary Bollywood playback singer Mohammed Rafi | Photo: WikiMedia

Watch: Remembering Mohammed Rafi on 41st death anniversary

By :Showbiz Desk
Published : Jul 31, 2021 05:26:00 PM | SHOWBIZ

Today (July 31) marks the 41st death anniversary of the Indian playback legend Mohammed Rafi. The versatile musician was always at the top of the Bollywood industry, singing for prominent stars like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and more. 

The skill (and some claim gift) that Rafi had, which made him different from any other playback singer at that time, was his ability to modulate his voice according to the actors and their mannerisms. His songs varied from fast peppy numbers to patriotic songs, sad numbers to highly romantic songs, qawwalis to ghazals and bhajans to classical songs.

The Report’s Showbiz team takes a look back at the veteran singer’s life, career and best works on his death anniversary.


Early life

Mohammed Rafi was the second eldest of six brothers born to Haji Ali Mohammad. He was born and raised in a village near present-day Majitha in Amritsar district of Punjab, India. 

Young Rafi, whose nickname was Pheeko, began singing by imitating the chants of a fakir who roamed the streets of his native village.

Rafi married twice; his first marriage was to his cousin; Bashira Bibi which took place in his ancestral village. The marriage ended when his first wife refused to live in Mumbai, India following the killing of her parents during the riots of the Partition of India and moved back to Lahore, Pakistan. 

His second marriage was to Bilquis Bano.

Rafi had four sons and three daughters; his first son Saeed was from his first marriage with Bashira.


Music Career

Rafi's father moved to Lahore in 1935, where he ran a barbershop. Rafi learnt classical music from Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwan Lal Mattoo and Firoze Nizami. His first public performance came at the age of 13, when he sang in Lahore featuring K L Saigal. 

In 1941, Rafi made his debut in Lahore as a playback singer in the duet ‘Soniye Nee, Heeriye Nee with Zeenat Begum in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch (released in 1944) under popular music director Shyam Sunder. He made his Bollywood debut in ‘Gaon Ki Gori,’ released in 1945.

In his early career, Rafi was associated with many contemporary music directors, most notably Naushad Ali. 

In the late 1950s and 1960s, he worked with other famous composers of the era such as O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan, S.D. Burman and Roshan.

According to industry sources, Rafi sang 4,425 Hindi film songs, 310 non-Hindi film songs, and 328 non-film songs between 1945 and 1980.

Guinness Book of World Records’ August 1980 edition claimed that Rafi has recorded 28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980.



The legendary playback singer had received numerous awards in his short but glorious career. He received four Filmfare Awards and one Indian National Film Award. 

In 1967, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award in the Republic of India. In 2013, Rafi was voted for the ‘Greatest Voice in Hindi Cinema’ in the CNN-IBN's poll.



Mohammed Rafi died at 10:25 pm on 31 July 1980, following a massive heart attack, aged 55. The last song sung by Rafi was for the movie ‘Aas Paas.’ 

Rafi was buried at the Juhu Muslim cemetery in Mumbai and his burial was one of the largest funeral processions in India as over 10,000 people attended his burial. The government of India announced a two-day-long public mourning in his honour.