Mohammed Rafi (December 24, 1924 – July 31, 1980) was an Indian playback singer whose career spanned four decades.He won 5 National Awards and 6 Filmfare Awards. In 1967, he was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
In a career spanning about 40 years, Rafi sang over 26,000 film songs.His songs ranged from classical numbers to patriotic songs, sad lamentations to highly romantic numbers, qawwalis to ghazals and bhajans, and from slow melancholic tunes to fast and melodious fun filled songs. He had a strong command of Hindi and Urdu and a powerful range that could accommodate this variety.He sang in many Indian languages including Hindi, Konkani, Urdu, Bhojpuri, Oriya, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Kannada, Gujarati, Telugu, Maghi, Maithili and Assamese. He also recorded a few English, Persian, Spanish and Dutch songs.
An article in Times of India, published on July 24, 2010 sums up his voice as, “If there are 101 ways of saying “I love you” in a song, Mohammed Rafi knew them all. The awkwardness of puppy love, the friskiness of teen romance, the philosophy of unrequited love and the anguish of heartbreak – he could explore every crevice of ardour. It wasn’t just love, his voice could capture the navras of life – a failed poet’s melancholy, a fiery unionist’s vim, a debt-ridden farmer’s despair, really anybody at all. Rafi, whose career spanned nearly four decades, was a singer for every season and every reason.”
Guiness World Records
During his last years, Rafi was involved in a controversy over Lata Mangeshkar’s introduction in to the Guinness Book of World Records. In a letter dated June 11, 1977 to the Guinness Book of World Records, Rafi had challenged the claim that Lata Mangeshkar has recorded the maximum number of songs (“not less than 25,000” according to Guinness). After receiving a reply from Guinness, in a letter dated November 20, 1979, he wrote: “I am disappointed that my request for a reassessment vis-a-vis Ms Mangeshkar’s reported world record has gone unheeded.”.
In an interview to BBC recorded in Nov 1977, Rafi claimed to have sung 25,000 to 26,000 songs till then.
After Rafi’s death, in its 1984 edition, the Guinness Book of Word Records gave Lata Mangeshkar’s name for the “Most Recordings” but also stated: “Mohammad Rafi (d 1 Aug 1980) claimed to have recorded 28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980.”.According to the available figures, Rafi has sung 4,516 Hindi film songs, 112 non-Hindi film songs, and 328 private (non-film) songs from 1945 to 1980.The Guinness Book entries for both Rafi and Lata were later removed in 1991.
* 1948 – Rafi received a silver medal from the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the first anniversary of the Indian Independence Day.
* 1967 – Honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
* 1974 – Film World magazine Best Singer Award for the song “Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke Baad” (Hawas, 1974).
* 2001 – Rafi was honored with the “best singer of the millennium” by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine in Mumbai on Jan 7, 2001. Rafi won with 70% of the votes.