Mukesh (22 July 1923 – 27 August 1976) was an Indian playback singer of Bollywood. Along with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar, he was one of the three leading male Bollywood playback singers from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Born Mukesh Chand Mathur in Punjab, in a small middle class family. Mukesh was the sixth in a family of ten children. Father Lala Zorawar Chand Mathur was an engineer. His mother was Chand Rani. The music teacher who came home to teach Mukesh's sister Sundar Pyari, found a pupil in Mukesh who would listen from the adjoining room. He had a younger brother Parmeshwari Das. Mukesh left school after the 10th standard and worked briefly for the Delhi Department of Public Works. Mukesh experimented with voice recordings during his employment in Delhi and gradually developed his singing abilities.
Mukesh got married in 1946 to Sarla Trivedi (1928 – 26 February 2008) in a temple in Kandiwali, at the residence of Mr. R. D. Mathur. Sarla was daughter of millionaire Gujarati Brahmins. With him having no proper house, an erratic in-come and a supposedly "immoral" profession. Thus Mukesh and Sarla eloped. Everyone made dire predictions of unhappy days and divorce; but both weathered the lean days and celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary on 22 July 1976, five days before his departure for the U.S.A. on 27 July 1976. The couple had five children as Rita, Nitin, Nalini(d. 1978), Mohnish (Taboo - nick name) and Namrata (Amrita).
Mukesh's voice was noticed by Motilal (a popular actor in Hindi films, also a distant relative of Mukesh) when he sang at his sister's wedding. Motilal took him to Bombay, let him stay with him and even arranged for singing lessons for him. During this period, Mukesh managed to bag a role in a Hindi film, Nirdosh (Innocent) (1941). His first song was dil hi bujha hua ho to as an actor singer for Nirdosh. He got his break as a playback singer in 1945 with the film Pehli Nazar (First Look). The first song he sang for a Hindi film was Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De (If the heart burns, let it burn), which was incidentally picturised on Motilal.
Mukesh was such a big fan of K. L. Saigal that in his early years of playback singing he used to imitate his idol. In fact, it is said that when K. L. Saigal first heard the song Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De, he said "That's strange, I don't recall singing that song".
He is best known for the songs he sang as a playback singer for Raj Kapoor, a legendary actor/director of Bollywood in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1974, Mukesh received National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song Kain baar yoon bhi dekhaa hai from Rajnigandha (1974), and Filmfare Awards for the songs Sab Kuch Seekha in the movie Anari (1959), Ganga Ram Ki Samajh in Pehchaan (1970), Jai Bolo in Be Imaan (1972) and the title song of Kabhie Kabhie (1976).
Mukesh died of a heart attack on 27 August 1976 in Detroit, Michigan, USA, where he had gone for a concert. His body was carried back to India with Lata Mangeshkar, where a grand funeral ceremony took place as many famous actors, personalities of the Indian film industry, and fans paid tribute to the late singer. When the news of his death reached Raj Kapoor, he remarked, "I have lost my voice," which is a testimony to the timeless and unforgettable association of Mukesh's voice (in playback) to the immensely popular songs of Raj Kapoor's films.
After Mukesh's death, his newer unreleased songs released in 1977 with films like Dharam Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Khel Khiladi Ka, Darinda, and Chandi Sona. The year 1978 also featured a good number of Mukesh songs, films like Aahuti, Paramatma, Tumhari Kasam, and Satyam Shivam Sundaram, where Mukesh sang his last film song "Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal." From 1980 onward, Mukesh's voice was heard in many late released films like Shaitan Mujarim, Premika, Patthar Se Takkar (1980), Sanjh Ki Bela, Maila Anchal (1981), Aarohi (1982), Chor Mandali (1983), Nirlaj (1985), Love and God (1986), Shubh Chintak (1989), and his last known release of Chand Grahan (1997).