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Popular Bollywood singer, Lata Mangeshkar, dies at 92

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Indian music sensation Lata Mangeshkar has died. She was the singing voice of the leading lady in countless Indian movie musicals. She recorded more than 25,000 songs. Mangeshkar was 92 years old. Sushmita Pathak has this tribute.

SUSHMITA PATHAK, BYLINE: Lata Mangeshkar was a hugely popular star, even though she never actually appeared on screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOH KAUN THI SONG")

LATA MANGESHKAR: (Singing in Hindi).

PATHAK: She was what we call in India a playback singer. Actresses would lip sync to the song she recorded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KEN HUNT: When she sings, it's unearthly.

PATHAK: That's music historian Ken Hunt talking to NPR in 2004.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HUNT: She just has a tonal quality and a vocal range and an acting ability in song which is unlike anyone else's on the planet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOH KAUN THI SONG")

MANGESHKAR: (Singing in Hindi).

PATHAK: For several decades, Mangeshkar was the voice for Bollywood's top heroines, says cinema studies professor Shikha Jhingan.

SHIKHA JHINGAN: The music directors really wanted her and only her.

PATHAK: Jhingan says some of the actresses would sign contracts with the condition that only Mangeshkar would sing for them. An Indian magazine called it the Mangeshkar monopoly. One of her strengths, Jhingan says, was the ease with which she pulled off different types of songs.

JHINGAN: She was equally comfortable in a classical-based song or a sad song or a romantic song, or even kind of a naughty, teasing kind of a number.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INHI LOGON NE")

MANGESHKAR: (Singing in Urdu).

PATHAK: Mangeshkar was born in 1929. Her first song came out in 1942, when India was still ruled by the British. When the country became free in 1947 and was partitioned, several top singers of the time chose to go to the new nation of Pakistan, leaving a vacuum in the Hindi film industry. Mangeshkar filled that vacuum. She continued to sing well into the 2000s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUKA CHUPPI")

MANGESHKAR: (Singing in Hindi).

PATHAK: In a 2018 interview, she said she would sing till her last breath. For NPR News, I'm Sushmita Pathak in Mumbai.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUKA CHUPPI")

MANGESHKAR: (Singing in Hindi). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.