Bollywood which is often considered the biggest entertainment industry in India is known to produce some of the greatest Hindi singers of all time.
Ranging from yesteryears R.D Burman and Kishor Kumar to the current Shreya Ghoshal and Armaan Malik, Bollywood has seen them all. Thus without further ado,
Let us look at the top 20 Hindi singers of all time, courtesy – Bollywood!
Abhash Kumar Ganguly or Kishore Kumar as he was best known as, was born in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh on 4th August 1929. He was the youngest of four siblings. Backed by Sachin Dev Burman and then his son Rahul Dev Burman, Kumar took to singing and shunned acting – a career path which was followed by his brother Ashok. Kumar is credited with singing in a record 91 films for a single hero – Rajesh Khanna. Other than Khanna, Kumar has also sung for Jeetendra, Dev Anand and Amitabh.
Although he is also known for his acting, direction and production and scriptwriting, it is his singing which people recall most fondly. Some of his well-known songs are – Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si, Mere Mehboob Qayamaat Hogi, Yeh Shaam Mastaani and the like. Although he died of an unexpected heart attack in 1987, it is his songs which have seen to his immortality even after 32 odd years.
Lata Mangeshkar who is known as the ‘Nightingale of India’ was born in Indore on the 28th of September, 1929 and is often considered the best female playback singer in the history of Bollywood. She has been singing for more than 50 years, lending her melodious voice to the likes of Nargis, Preity Zinta and Kajol.
She is a Guinness Book of World Records holder for being the most recorded artist in the world, having to her credit – more than 40,000 solo, duet and chorus backed songs, through 20 languages! She is known for her unusually high-pitched voice, which was a breath of freshness from all the nasal voice singers of her time when she debuted. She has given her voice to some of the best movies of the 20th and 21st century like Veer-Zaara, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Dil Toh Pagal Hai.
If we are talking of Hindi singing, then the Godfather of Ghazals deserves to be on that list. Jagjit Singh was born on 8th February 1941 in Sri Ganganagar, British India. Although he is best known for his timeless ghazals, he has also lent his voice to some amazing movies such as Veer-Zaara, Khal Nayak and Aapko Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai.
He married well-known singer Chintra Singh and they were known to perform amazing duets when a personal tragedy (death of their only son) prompted Chitra Singh to stop singing completely. His voice exudes a tone of melancholy and pain, which resonates with almost every generation, irrespective of age. He died in 2011 at the age of 70, after suffering a brain haemorrhage and it was a huge shock to all. Although gone, his songs still keep him well alive among his fans and patrons.
Prabodh Chandra Dey or Manna Dey was born on May 1st 1919 in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India. Dey was a well-known playback singer of his time and Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and he is often considered the ‘fab 4′ male playback singers of the 1940s. Dey can be credited with singing in almost every genre ranging from pop to folk.
Some of his duets with the likes of Geeta Dutt and Suman Kalyanpur not only made them stand out but also left lasting impressions on his patrons. Although starting the 70s Dey started to decrease his Hindi performances, the work he had done before that (and a few after), are still considered some of the best even today. Some of Dey’s greatest hits were for Sholay, Talaq, Navrang, Devdas, Khuda Ka Banda and Zindagi Aur Khawab. Dey passed away on 18th January 2012 after a prolonged illness.
Mohammad Rafi was born on 24th December 1924 in Kotla Sultan Singh in Amritsar, Punjab. He was trained under Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan and made his debut in a Punjabi duet with Zeenat Begum for the songs ‘Soniye Ni Heeriye Ni’. Rafi was known to have a voice unparalleled and it was Movietone’s Homi Wadia who introduced him to mainstream Hindi films with ‘Sharbati Ankhein’.
Rafi’s brilliant combination of bringing together traits of a classical vocalist and that of playback singer are what made him stand out from the rest. He lent his voice to notable films like – Pyasa, Shaheed, Dosti, Ek Haseena and Hum Dono. He passed away on 31st July 1980 after suffering a massive heart attack, and music lost a brilliant artist.
Asha Bhosle is the younger sister of Lata Mangeshkar. Like her sister, she is also one of the greatest playback singers Bollywood has produced, being nicknamed ‘The Queen of Indipop.’ She was born on 8th September 1932 and was trained by her father Dinanath Mangeshkar in classical music. She made her debut into mainstream Bollywood playback singing with Chunaria.
However, it took her a long time to find a foothold for herself because she had to compete with some of the greatest playback singers such as Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum and even her sister. She has given her voice to many notable films such as – Jawani Diwani, Hum Kisise Kum Nehi and Yaadon Ki Baraat. Asha Bhosle continues to make songs that not only make people grove to them but also remember them for a long time.
Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri or Geeta Dutt (after her marriage to Guru Dutt) as she was best known as was born on 23rd November 1930 in Faridpur district in East Bengal. Her debut was in 1946 courtesy Hanuman Prasad who let her sing a couple of lines in the film Bhakt Prahlad. Her proper debut occurred when she landed in Mumbai and sang in the film ‘Do Bhai, which catapulted her as the number one playback singer in Mumbai.
Dutt was known for her bhajans and weepy melancholic voice, the film Baazi revealed a new facet of hers, proving that she could indeed sing for every emotion. Dutt is credited for singing in films like Anubhav and Baazi. Her later years were a struggle for survival marred in controversy and drinking problems and she died a sad and painful death due to liver cirrhosis on July 20th 1972 at the young age of 42.
A voice like no other, Mukesh Chand Mathur or simply Mukesh was born on July 22nd 1923 in Delhi. He was often considered at par with Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and Manna Dey and was nicknamed ‘The Man With The Golden Voice.’ He is still considered one of the best playback singers in the history of Bollywood. His singing had the capability to touch your soul and that was a rare feat back in the day. He got his first big break in the film Pahali Nazar, and then there was no looking back.
He lent his voice to films such as Andaz, Mera Naam Joker, Awaara, Dharam Karam and Shree 420 and became a household name. He passed away on August 27th 1976 in Detroit, USA after suffering a heart attack. Though gone, his songs continue to not just haunt but touch souls, even years later.
Hemanta Mukhopadhyay or Hemant Kumar was born on June 16th 1920 in Benaras. He was one of greatest male playback singers of his generation, wining National Awards in the best male playback singer category as well.
He lent his voice to some of the greatest films of his time, such as – Nagin, Bees Saal Baad, Kohra. His singing would cover a wide variety of genres like – Folk, Film Music and Classical. Although a brilliant singer, his voice suffered a little after he had a heart attack back in the 80s. He died on 26th September 1989 after suffering a heart attack.
Mahendra Kapoor was one of Bollywood’s prominent singers and he was born on January 9th 1934 in Amritsar. His singing was inspired by Mohammad Rafi and he took singing lessons from Pt. Hussanlal, Abdul Rehman Khan, Pt. Tulsidaas Sharma, Ustad Niaz Ahmed Khan and Pt. Jagannath Bua. He made his debut as a playback singer in ‘Navrang’.
Some of his most notable songs were in B.R. Chopra’s films and for Manoj Kumar which include – Dhool Ka Phool, Gumrah, Waqt, Upkar, Purab Aur Paschim, Humraaz and Nikaah. He also performed a duet with his idol Mohammad Rafi – ‘Kaisi Haseen Baharon Ki Raat’ from the film Aadmi. His magnificent voice has earned him the title of ‘The Vibrant Voice of India.’ He passed away on 27th September 2008, after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Shreya Ghoshal was born on 12th March 1984 in Rawatbhata, Rajasthan. Ghoshal is among this generation playback singer of Bollywood, who has managed to make a mark for herself amongst other contemporaries. She has to her name four National Film Awards, six Filmfare Awards which includes five for Best Female Playback Singer.
Ghoshal’s tryst with music started at the age of 4 and at the age of 6, she started to learn classical music. She made her Bollywood singing debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, where she gave the voice to Paro portrayed by Aishwarya Rai. She has also lent her voice in movies such as Shor in the City, PK, RamLeela, Ranjhanaa and Ashique 2.
Sonu Kumar Nigam or Sonu Nigam as he is better known as was born on 30th July 1973 in Faridabad, Haryana. He is the son of famous singer Agam Kumar Nigam. Nigam is considered one of the best male playback singers of Bollywood at the moment.
He has a sister (Nikita Nigam) who is also a playback singer. Nigam has rendered songs for Om Shanti Om, Kal Ho Na Ho, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Border. He got married to Madhurima Nigam in 2002 and they have a son – Nevaan (born 2007) together.
Alka Yagnik was born to Gujarati parents in Kolkata on 20th March 1966. Her younger brother Samir Yagnik is also a singer. She began her musical career at the age of 6, singing songs for Calcutta Radio. She began her Bollywood music career in 1979 by singing a few lines for Payal Ki Jhankar. However, what managed to bring her some recognition was the hit song ‘Mere Angne Mein’.
Her big break happened in the year 1988 for the movie Tezaab where she sang ‘Ek Do Teen Chaar…’ After this, there was no looking back for her, as she managed to permanently carve a niche for herself in Bollywood playback singing. She has done playback singing for many famed actresses such as Rakhee Gulzar, Preity Zinta, Rekha, Kajol, Hema Malini and Farida Jalal.
Sunidhi Chauhan is another renowned singer born on 14th August 1983 in New Delhi. She belongs to a Rajput family and her father is an eminent theatre personality. Chauhan began singing at the age of 4 and took it up as a career in order to pursue her dreams, for which she decided to discontinue her studies as well. She is the winner of a singing reality show which used to be held on DD called ‘Meri Awaaz Suno.’
Her first big break was at the age of 13 when she sang the song ‘Ladki Deewani Dekho‘ in a duet with Udit Narayan. In the year 1999, she won her first nomination as Best Female Playback Singer for ‘Ruki Ruki Si Zindagi.’ Chauhan is known to have a very powerful and high pitched voice, something which is rarely seen in female singers. She has sung in movies like Fiza, Dhoom, Dhoom 2, Dhoom 3, Dostana, Hasee Toh Phasee and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
Shankar Mahadevan was born on 3rd March 1967, in Chembur, Mumbai. He is part of the singing trio – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, and they’ve together performed for numerous films in Bollywood. Mahadevan is famous for singing ‘Breathless’ (a part of the album with the same name, in collaboration with Javed Akhter) a song which has no break-in stanza, verse nor breath.
It had earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as well. Mahadevan has a very distinct voice and that has helped him give voice in a number of films such as – Dil Dhadakne Do, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dostana, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Dil Chahta Hai, Bunty Aur Babli and the like. His son Siddharth Mahadevan is also a playback singer.
Arijit Singh was born on 25th April 1987 in Jiaganj, Murshidabad, West Bengal. He is currently one of Bollywood’s most sought after male playback singers. He was part of the singing-reality contest – Fame Gurukul, back in 2005, where he had reached the top 6. He has won numerous awards for Best Male Playback Singer and has managed to win the hearts of music lovers countrywide.
Singh’s voice has a tone of melancholy and pain, which he manages to bring out well in almost every song he sings. He is often considered an epitome of heartbreak songs as well. Some of his best-known hits include – Channa Mereya (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil), Tujhe Kitna Chahne Lage and Bekhayali (Kabir Singh), Sanam Re (Sanam Re), Hamari Adhuri Kahani (Hamari Adhuri Kahani), Pachtaoge and Kabhi Jo Badal Barse (Jackpot).
A new musical talent, Armaan Malik was born in Mumbai on 22nd July 1995. His older brother Amaal Malik is a music composer and he is the son of Daboo Malik. Malik started his career by being a part of a music reality show – Zee Tv’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs, where he had managed to reach the eighth place, based on public votes.
Malik’s first proper performance was singing in Salman Khan’s movie Jai Ho in 2014. He also performed duets with Sona Mahapatra in Khoobsurat (Naina) in the same year, making people stand up and take notice of him. Subsequently, he also sang for Hero, Hate Story 3, Azhar, Kapoor and Sons, Sanam Re and Baaghi. His voice is often considered an epitome of romance, thereby making him a heartthrob to thousands in the country.
Shantanu Mukherjee or Shaan as he is best known as was born on 30th September 1972, in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. Shaan belongs to a family of musical geniuses, with his grandfather being the great lyricist Jahar Mukherjee, his father being late music director Manas Mukherjee and his sister being singer Sagarika. Shaan started his professional career by singing ad film jingles.
He first came into limelight when he and his sister performed a remix album of R.D. Burman’s – Roop Tera Mastana. His best known single is from the album Tanha Dil – Bhool Ja, which had managed to win hearts almost immediately after its release. Other than these, some of Shaan’s well-known albums include –Sawariya, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Housefull 2, Fanaa, Welcome, Taare Zameen Par, Ta Ra Rum Pum and Jab We Met.
Udit Narayan Jha or Udit Narayan as he is best known as was born on 1st December 1955 in Supaul, Nepal. Narayan has ruled Bollywood playback singing for three decades straight – 80s, 90s and 00s, showing how prominent he was during his time. He started his career in 1970 as a Maithili Folk singer for Radio Nepal and it was in the 1980s that he started his Bollywood career and was noticed by director Rajesh Roshan.
His soulful and mesmerizing voice has managed to win hearts time and again, and some of the notable films he has worked in includes – Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jita Wohi Sikandar and Raja Hindustani. Although Narayan doesn’t do as much playback singing now, he still manages to make music lovers of all ages dance to his musical tunes.
Krishnakumar Kunnath or KK as he is best known as was born on 23rd August 1970 in Delhi. He started his career by singing jingles and it took him 3,500 of them before he could officially break into Bollywood. KK found inspiration in Kishore Kumar and R.D.Burman. What sets KK apart from the rest is the fact that he has never undergone any formal training in music.
He got is first big Bollywood break with ‘Tadap Tadap’ from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Some of the present generation heart-throbs such as Arijit Singh and Ankit Tewari all draw inspiration from him. Some of his well-known songs include –Khuda Jane, Maine Dil Se Kaha (Rog), Zara Sa (Jannat), Tu Jo Mila (Bajrangi Bhaijaan), Haan Tu Hai (Jannat 2), Alvida (Life in a Metro) and Labon Ko (Bhool Bhulaiya).
Neha Kakkar rose to fame from a television reality singing competition – Indian Idol Season 2, back in 2006. She was also the judge of the same show in season 10. Kakkar was born on 6th June 1988 in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand and has two siblings – Tony Kakkar and Sonu Kakkar – where the later is a playback singer and the former is a singer.
Kakkar has done many associated acts with throughout her career with singers like – Bilal Saeed, Ikka Singh, Iraj, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Yama Buddha and Dhvani Bhanushali. Some of her well-known songs include – Second Hand Jawani (Cocktail), Sunny Sunny (Yaariyan), London Thumakda (Queen), Kar Gayi Chul (Kapoor and Sons) and Aankh Maarey (Simba).
Thakur belongs to a family of singers, where she was born on 3rd November 1985 in Kolkata. Her father Shakti Thakur is a Bengali singer and sister Mehuli Thakur a playback singer. She is trained in Hindustani Classical Music and received her first Playback Singer Award at the age of 14. However, what made her a known face was her stint in Indian Idol 2, where she managed to reach rank 9.
Nonetheless, it still took her some time to finally breakthrough in the music industry, with her catchy crooning of ‘Khwaab Dekhe’ and ‘Zaara Zaara Touch Me’ for Race (2008). After this, there was no stopping her, as she went on to give one hit after the other. Some of her best-known songs include – Sawaar Loon (Lootera), Moh Moh Ke Dhaage (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), Khudaya Khair (Billu), Aga Bai (Aiyya), Cham Cham (Baaghi) and Badri Ki Dulhania (Badrinath Ki Dulhania).
Ankit Tiwari is an Indian playback singer who was born on 6th March 1986, in Kanpur. He started his career by chance, singing jingles and composing background music for television programmes. It was in 2010 when he was first offered to compose music for Do Dooni Chaar and Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster (2011), where his musical career into Bollywood started.
Tiwari idolises KK, Puerto Rican and Ricky Martin. Songs which made him a household name include – Galliyan (Ek Villain), Sunn Raha Na Tu (Aashique 2), Tu Hai Ki Nahi (Roy), Katra Katra (Alone) and Mat Ja Re (Tanu Weds Manu).
Amit Trivedi started his career by scoring jingles and singing for non-film albums. He debuted as a film composer in Aamir (2008) and made people sit up and take notice of him for his work in Dev.D (2009). He was born on 8th April 1979 in Bandra, Mumbai to a Gujarati family. As of now, he sings, composes and also works as a music director and lyricist.
Some of his well-known songs include – Nayan Tarse (Dev.D), Zinda (Lootera), Yeh Fitoor Mera (Fitoor), Ishaqzaade (Ishaqzaade), Shaam Shandaar (Shaandaar), Gal Mitthi Mitthi (Aisha) and Love You Zindagi (Dear Zindagi).