Remembering Top Male Playback Singers of Bollywood’s Golden Era

Mohammed Rafi

Rafi Sahab or Rafi Da, as he is fondly remembered was a great student of music. In his formative years, he was inspired by a wandering fakir in his village who sang soulful songs. Also, it was his determination to become a Bollywood playback singer that convinced his father to allow him to leave his native place and come to Mumbai. The rest is history. India got one of the most prolific male singers of the era.

To his name are some of the most memorable songs like Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe, Dil Ke Jharoke Mein, Ye Reshmi Zulfein, Khush Rahe Tu Sada, and many more. His magical voice enhanced the tunes and the timelessness of songs, almost filling our hearts with warmth and peace.

He inspired the modern sensational singing star like Sonu Nigam who won the Rafi competition at the age of 15.

He was also well known for qualities like discipline and professionalism, the likes of which can be imbibed by the upcoming singers today. A great role model indeed.

Kishore Kumar

One of the most versatile singers and multi-talented artist of Bollywood, Kishore Kumar, though debatable, was the most popular singing legend of the golden era. The yodeling style in Hindi songs was introduced and made popular by him. His record number of Filmfare awards for Best Male Playback Singer remains unbroken even today. The very fact that he was untrained makes it much more inspiring.

The highlight of his songs like Mere Mehboob Qayamat, Aanewala Pal, Kuchh To Log Kehenge, Chala Jaata Hun was that it captured the imagination and enraptured the hearts. Another outstanding characteristic of Kishore Kumar songs is that it appeals to the senses and sensibilities of the present generation even after three decades since his demise.



Winner of 4 Filmfare awards and a National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer, Mukesh was one of the finest singers of Bollywood industry with a melodious voice. Coming from a humble background, he started singing in his native village. Later, he came to Mumbai where the competition was too much.

He eventually became the voice of none other than superstar Raj Kapoor, the showman of Bollywood. Their combination gave several super hits such as Awaara Hun, Mera Joota Hai Japani, Bol Radha Bol, Dost Dost Na Raha. He also sang the evergreen romantic song ‘Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil’ which remains exuberant and appealing even now.

He was known as The Man with the Golden Voice recognized for the deep anguish and pain in his songs expressing heartbreaks and despair.    

Manna Dey

Manna Dey was a legend of Bollywood music industry in his own unique way. With classical training, quality voice, good range, and passion for music, he carved out a style of his own. He brought classical music and qawwali to the masses. ‘Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen’ being one of the most loved qawwalis in India film history.

Though music directors used other singers of that period more, Manna Dey sang some of the most memorable songs which people love listening to even today. The songs like Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua, Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo, Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi, Laga Chunari Mei Daag, Dharti Kahe Pukaar Ke, Zindagi Kaise Hai Paheli Hai, Yaari Hai Imaam Mera are super hits forever etched in the hearts.

Manna Dey was known for his camaraderie with his contemporaries like Rafi Da and Kishore Da. He used to lavishly praise the legends for their songs. It is indeed a good lesson to learn for the upcoming singers of the present generation.

The list of top male singers would be incomplete without mentioning names like Hemant Kumar, Jagjit Singh, southern singing stars like K. J. Yesudas, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. All these legends had a distinct style and inspired the singers of today.

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