Happy Birthday Lataji!!! (How are there so many birthdays in 2 days!!!)

I just finished my three part Yash Chopra post, and then Ranbir Kapoor pops up, and now Lata!  Gah!  Stop being born, people!  Anyway, Lata will have to be content with 16 reasons I love her for the 16 notes in the Indian scale.  I’m not doing another 80+ after I just did it for Yashji.

1.1. I love you because you started supporting your family at age 13, after your father’s death, using the musical skills he taught you.

2. I love you because, although it seems astounding now, at one point music directors called your voice “too thin”, and yet you kept working.

3. I love you because you had your first big hit at age 20, after working for 7 years.

4. Let’s take a look at that big hit, shall we?  From Mahal, which is this TOTALLY BONKERS reimagining of Rebecca.


5.  Speaking of TOTALLY BONKERS movies, Lata got her first FilmFare for her song in Madhumati, which is one of the movies that inspired Om Shanti Om.  Only the original version is SO MUCH CRAZIER!!!


6. That was in the 50s, by the 60s Lata was generally acknowledged as the best of the best of the best.  Really, the only one.  And her songs from this era remain classics today.  Including this one, my favorite.


7.  I love you because your response to criticism was to keep your head down and try to do better.  Nothing you could do about a “thin” voice, but when she received further criticism for her Urdu pronunciation, she responded by taking lessons until it got better, finally achieving perfection as seen in her songs for Pakeezah.


8.  In the 1970s, Raj Kapoor was somewhat insultingly inspired by your voice for Satyam Shivan Sundaram.  The idea being a woman with a beautiful voice and an ugly face.  Huh.

9. That was the 70s, in the 80s it was a little less serious.  And you still dominated, with songs like this!


10. At the end of the 80s, you were there to bring in a new era of film with Maine Pyar Kiya.


11.  By the 90s, a Lata song was something of an event.  You still worked, a lot, never too proud to work.  But you no longer did a whole album or similar, it was more about that one song that really needed the Lata touch.

12. And all the new song directors still wanted to work with you, like AR Rahman in Dil Se.


13.  You also sang your brother-in-law RD Burman’s last song in the 90s, after singing his first song back in the 60s.


14. By this point, you were famous enough to appear onscreen, even with your quiet unremarkable appearance, you were still a star.


15.  And you also got the chance to revisit some of your old compositions by recording them again for the amazing “Medley” sequence.


16.  And finally, just to end, with one of my favorite songs of yours, which I was just reminded of when I watched Kal Ho Na Ho where it was used as one of the musical cues.

5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Lataji!!! (How are there so many birthdays in 2 days!!!)

  1. I feel Lata does not have THE best singing skills(as in years of training,voice modulation et al),but the best singing voice in India belongs to her.It suits literally any character.And contrary to some people,I find her voice much more beautiful at a lower pitch.Her best album Pakeezah doesn’t boast much of her singing skills as much as the glorious instrumental score(it is so classical,so poetic,so languid,so dreamlike and yet so contemporary and natural at the same time).To be honest,Asha outperforms her with the long classical alaaps in “Dil cheez kya hai” and Geeta Dutt literally chokes us with tears in “Na jao saiyan”,but the overall effect of unfulfilled yearning and surging passion is achieved in “Chalte Chalte”like nobody else.Lata is perhaps not the best singer,but qualifies as the best playback singer.I think this is why she didn’t sing many unadulterated thumris(“Thare rahiyo”is almost a thumri,but again the music steals the limelight)which require so much training and voice modulation.The best Lata song,when it comes to her skills is “Ae dil e nadaan.”And it is not a classical song,more like a sufism inspired piece.Her voice glides like butter.
    I don’t mean Lata doesn’t have skills(even with that voice you need years of practice),it’s like her voice is an aesthetic without being grand.


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