For his 94th birth anniversary today (22 July), a look back at how he convinced Mangeshkar to join him for a North American tour, which became her first. The incident has been chronicled in the book, On Stage With Lata.
When singer Mukesh toured North America with Lata Mangeshkar in 1975
Mumbai - 22 Jul 2017 8:00 IST
The singers Mukesh (born as Mukesh Chand Mathur on 22 July 1923) and Lata Mangeshkar, shared a close relationship after they were partners together on a number of duets. She referred to him as Mukesh Bhaiya and he called her Didi. It was Mukesh who was instrumental in persuading Lata to tour with him across the US and Canada in the mid-1970s. He had previously toured North America in 1973 and was eager to share the stage with Mangeshkar.
Mukesh arranged for the concert’s organiser Mohan Deora, who had set up the 1973 shows, to meet with Lata for the tour. A meeting was arranged in December 1974 at the Famous Studios in Tardeo, Mumbai and after a couple of days, the tour was finalised.
In the book, On Stage With Lata, by co-authors Rachana Shah and Deora, the events of that first tour are recalled. The tour began on 9 May 1975 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles with Lata and Mukesh as the headliners and concluded at Carnegie Hall, New York on 26 May. They were accompanied by Lata’s younger sisters Usha and Meena Khadikar, Meena’s children Rachana (Shah) and Yogesh and Anand Bhosle, son of Lata’s sister Asha. Arranger Anil Mohile was the conductor for the concerts.
There were several memorable incidents that took place on the tour. Lata recalled in the book that one time, a couple of second-generation Indians invited Mukesh out to dinner after much persuasion. After the dinner, when the bill came, all of the young boys took out $10 each from their pockets.
Mukesh, being magnanimous, decided to foot the bill himself. However, when he returned back to the hotel that night, he told Lata, ‘Didi, I won’t be accepting any invitations for dinner again.’ She remembered that the two had a good laugh after the fiasco.
Across North America, Mukesh sang his hit songs like ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’, ‘Ansoo Bhari Hain Ye Jeevan Ki Raahen’, ‘Jaane Kahaan Gaye Woh Din’ and ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’. The audience was especially delighted with the song ‘Saawan Ka Mahina’ from Milan (1967), Lata recalled that “it amused them because in the song Mukesh Bhaiya has to teach me how to pronounce the word ‘sor’.”
For the second to last concert at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden on 25 May, Mukesh brought Raj Kapoor to come on stage to introduce Lata. The crowd went wild when they saw him and he spoke warmly of Lata’s talent and fame.
The actor and his wife Krishna were vacationing in the city and Mukesh personally went to their hotel to invite them to the concert. Raj Kapoor also gave a nod to his onscreen voice, Mukesh, by stating, ‘When people in Russia sing ‘Awaara Hoon’ they think of Raj Kapoor, but it is really Mukesh Chand.’ The Shree 420 actor “described himself as a flute with holes in its body, and the air that blows through the flute to bring out the sound and music belongs to Mukesh.”
The concert ended with Mukesh’s live rendition of ‘Dost Dost Na Raha’ from Sangam (1964), a request from the New York audience. Mohan Deora wrote that Mukesh likened the whole experience of the nine-city tour to a fairy tale.
Sadly, when in-demand singers returned the next year, Mukesh passed away from a sudden heart attack on 27 August, the day he was to perform at the Ford Auditorium in Detroit, Michigan with Lata. She later released a tribute album in his honour.