India — The legendary “Nightingale of India,” singer Lata Mangeshkar, died on Sunday at 92.
She passed away in a Mumbai hospital, where she was admitted to its intensive care unit on January 11 with Covid-19 symptoms.
“I am anguished beyond words,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter.
A state funeral and a local holiday in Maharashtra, along with two days of national mourning for the singer was declared after news of her death.
Mangeshkar, born in 1929, began her musical tutelage early under her father, Deenanath. She was singing in his theatre productions when she was just five.
At 13, with her father’s death, she was forced to take on the role of breadwinner of the family and eventually moved to Mumbai in 1945.
As a playback singer, her tracks were mimed by actors, and her high-pitched voice soon became a must for Bollywood blockbusters.
Her version of “Oh the People of my Country,” a patriotic tribute to the soldiers killed in the 1962 Indo-China war, reportedly moved then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears.
The following decades saw composers and film producers competing to sign the prolific Mangeshkar for their films.
“I composed withLata Mangeshkar’s range and voice quality in mind,” Anil Biswas in “Encyclopedia of Hindi Cinema.”
“Lata jee had a wide range, and one could compose complicated melodies for her,” he added.
Lata, along with her younger sister Asha Bhonsle — a superstar in her own right — dominated Bollywood music for half a century and is arguably the greatest Indian film industry’s playback singer.
Mangeshkar never shied from raising her prices or claiming royalties earned on her songs.
Critics complained her dominance left little room for newer singers; her longevity and discipline saw her voice lent to teenage actresses who were 50 years her junior.
She was known for her quirks, as never singing with her shoes on and writing each song by hand before recording it.
Lata Mangeshkar received the Bharat Ratna 2001, India’s highest civilian honor, and France’s Legion d’Honneur in 2009 for her contribution to Indian music and cinema.
A school dropout from Indore, she only attended classes for one day; Mangeshkar spoke several languages.
She sang in more than 1,000 films, recorded devotional and classical albums, she sang over 27,000 songs in dozens of languages, including English, Russian, Dutch, and Swahili.