Mukesh Chand Mathur (22 July 1923 – 27 August 1976), better known mononymously as Mukesh, was an Indian playback singer of Hindi movies. He, alongside Mohammad Rafi, Manna Dey, and Kishore Kumar, left such an impact on the Hindi film industry that they are still remembered to date. Amongst the numerous nominations and awards he won, his song "Kai Baar Yuhi Dekha Hai" from film Rajnigandha (1973) won him the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer. Mukesh is also popular as being the voice of legendary actor Raj Kapoor.
Mukesh was born in Ludhiana to Zorawar Chand Mathur, an engineer, and Chand Rani. He was the sixth in a family of ten children. 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. Mukesh left school after the 10th grade and worked briefly for the Department of Public Works. He experimented with voice recordings during his employment in Delhi and gradually developed his singing abilities.
Mukesh's voice was first noticed by Motilal, a distant relative, when he sang at his sister's wedding. Motilal took him to Mumbai and arranged for singing lessons by Pandit Jagannath Prasad. During this period Mukesh was offered a role in a Hindi film, Nirdosh (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 for actor Motilal in 1945 with the film Pehli Nazar with music composed by Anil Biswas and lyrics written by Aah Sitapuri. The first song that he sang for a Hindi film was "Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De". Mukesh was such a fan of singer 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...", he remarked, "That's strange, I don't recall singing that song".
Mukesh created his own singing style with the help of music director Naushad, who helped Mukesh to come out of his Saigal style and create his own style. Naushad gave him songs for the film Andaz. Initially Mukesh was the ghost voice of Dilip Kumar in this movie and Mohammed Rafi sang for Raj Kapoor. He delivered many Hits for Naushad in films like: Anokha Pyaar (1948), Mela(1948), Andaz (1949), Shabnam (1949), Yahudi (1958). However later Dilip Kumar choose Rafi as his ghost voice and Mukesh became the ghost voice of Raj Kapoor. In 1974, Mukesh received National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song "Kai Baar Yuhi Dekha Hai" from Rajnigandha (1974), and Filmfare Awards for the songs "Sab Kuch Seekha Humne" in the movie Anari (1959), "Sabse Bada Naadan Wahi Hai" in Pehchaan (1970), "Jai Bolo Beimaan Ki" in Beimaan (1972) and "Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein", the title song of film Kabhie Kabhie (1976). A total of around 1,200 songs were sung by him. This number is less than those sung by some of his contemporaries, but the fact is that Mukesh emphasized on quality rather than quantity. The comparatively less songs sung by him in the 70s can be attributed to both the Kishore wave and his failing health due to his worsening heart problem.
Mukesh died of a heart attack on 27 August 1976 in Detroit, Michigan, USA, where he had gone to perform in a concert. His son, Nitin Mukesh, joined him later on. On the morning of August 27, he got up early and went to take a shower. He came out panting and complaining of chest pains. He was rushed to a hospital but was pronounced dead. The rest of the concert was completed by Lata Mangeshkar. His body was flown to India by Lata Mangeshkar, where a grand funeral ceremony was held in the presence of several actors, with personalities of the Indian film industry and fans paying tribute. When news of his death reached Raj Kapoor, he burst into tears, and remarked, "I have lost my voice, which is a testimony to the association of Mukesh's voice (in playback) to the immensely popular songs of Raj Kapoor's films. A famous song of the 50s featured on Bharat Bhushan Aa laut ke aa ja mere meet is another example of his earlier melodies, as is Dil tadap tadapke keh raha hai, picturised on Dilip Kumar.
After Mukesh's death, his newer, hitherto unreleased, songs were released in 1977 in films such as Dharam Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony, Khel khiladi ka, Darinda and Chandi sona. The year 1978 also featured a considerable number of Mukesh's songs in films such as Aahuti, Paramatma, Tumhari kasam and Satyam Shivam Sundaram, where Mukesh sang his last film song Chanchal sheetal nirmal komal for Raj Kapoor's younger brother, Shashi Kapoor. From 1980 onward, Mukesh's voice was heard in many later released films such as 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).
Mukesh married Saral Trivedi Raichand alias Bachhiben in a temple in Kandiwali in 1946, at the residence of R. D. Mathur. Saral was the daughter of a Gujarati Brahmin millionaire. With no proper house, an erratic income and what was then considered in India a supposedly "immoral" profession, Mukesh and Saral were forced to elope. 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, four days before his departure for the U.S.A. on 27 July 1976. The couple had five children - Rita, Nitin, Nalini (d. 1978), Mohnish (Taboo - nickname) and Namrata (Amrita). He is the grand father of actor Neil Nitin Mukesh.