One of India’s greatest playback singers, Mohammed Rafi, was born on December 24, 1924, at Kotla Sultan Singh, a village in Punjab near present-day Amritsar. He was the fifth among the six sons of Hajji Ali Mohammad and Allahrakhi Bai. His father moved to Lahore in the 1920s. A family friend recognized Rafi’s singing talent and supported him. Mohammed Rafi started taking Hindustani Classical music from Pandit Jiwan Lal Mattoo who taught him the intricacies of Raag Shastra and Punjabi folk ragas Pahaadi, Bhairavi, Basant and Malhaar. He later trained under the tutelage of Ustad Abdul Wahad Khan of the Kirana Gharana and also received lessons from and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana. He was also trained by Feeroze Nizami, a producer in the All India Radio Lahore. Rafi performed his first stage show at 13 years of age in Lahore. He started singing for the All India Radio in Lahore from the year 1941. Rafi made his Hindi film debut with the song “Aji Dil Ho Aaabu Mein…” in the film ‘Gaon Ki Gori’.
Eventually Rafi went to Bombay in 1944. After Partition Rafi decided to stay in India and brought his family to Bombay. Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru awarded Rafi a silver medal in 1948. Rafi worked with all the leading music directors of his time. He received 21 Filmfare Awards nominations for playback singing out of which he won 6 times. He also won a National Film Award in 1977. He also bagged the Bengali Film Journalists Awards thrice in 1957, 1965 and 1966. He was honoured with the Padma Shri award by the Government of India in 1967.
The last song he recorded was ‘Shaam Phir Kyun Udaas Hai Dost’ for music director duo Laxmikant Pyarelal for the film Aas Paas. Mohammed Rafi died of a massive heart attack on July 31, 1980 at 10:25 PM at his residence at Rafi Mansion, Bandra.