1 'Koi Humdum Na Raha' (Jhumroo, 1951)
For a personality that was so full of life, it is surprising how much depth and feeling exist in Kishore Kumar's sombre numbers. This slow, beautiful track in Jhumroo was based on his own brother Ashok Kumar's song from Jeevan Naiya (1931). By all accounts, it is Kishore Kumar's version that wins.
As a comparison, here's the original in Ashok Kumar's voice.
2 'Raah Pe Rehte Hain' (Namkeen, 1982)
RD Burman once chided Gulzar for his free-verse poetry by saying articles from The Times of India, a newspaper, cannot be made into songs. Yet, the duo combined to great effect in the 1980s, and Kishore Kumar benefited greatly from this collaboration. In this wandering song from Namkeen, Kishoreda's melodious voice combines with the grace of Gulzar's verse and the mirth of Pancham's music to perfection.
3 'O Majhi Re' (Khushboo, 1983)
The trio came together again in Khushboo. This one has Kishore Kumar in a very different philosophical mood, unlike his usual vibrant, rhythmic songs. Also, RD Burman's score with that magical sound of rippling water waves makes it a track to listen on a loop.
4 'Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi' (Khamoshi, 1969)
Rajesh Khanna was the face most associated with Kishore Kumar. This song stands out for a pre-superstardom Rajesh Khanna alongside Waheeda Rehman, and a slow Hemant Kumar composition. It is Kishore Kumar's depth and 'harkat' (emotional nuance) that stand out in this one.
5 'Kisi Baat Par Main Kisi Se Khafa Hoon' (Bemisaal, 1982)
For all his mirth and wackadoo, the singing phenomenon also possessed a depth that made his voice perfect for ghazals. Among his many underrated ones is this soulful ghazal from Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Bemisaal.
6 'Jeevan Se Bhari Teri Aankhen' (Safar, 1970)
Speak of Amitabh Bachchan, and Rajesh Khanna can never be far behind. Safar (1970) was one of the big hits that launched Khanna into the cinematic stratosphere. With lyrics by Indeevar, Kishore Kumar manages to subdue his inimitable personality to deliver an almost Keatsian ode to beauty here.
7 'Sarakti Jaaye Hai Rukh Se Naqaab' (Deedar-e-Yaar, 1982)
Jagjit Singh's version of Ameer Minai's famous ghazal remains popular among aficionados, but it was Kishore Kumar who delivered the first cinematic version of it. Picturised on Rishi Kapoor and Tina Munim, this is a forgotten classic.
8 'Marne Ki Duaayen Kyun Maangu' (Ziddi, 1949)
A fan of KL Saigal, Kishore Kumar would often imitate the great man's voice in his youth. His first song, for Dev Anand's Ziddi, bears a close resemblance in theme and style of Saigal in his pomp.
9 'Yun Neend Se Woh Jaan-e-Chaman' (Dard Ka Rishta, 1982)
Sunil Dutt is not a face many associate with romantic ghazals. This forgotten classic is from the little known Dard Ka Rishta. The magic of the song lies in Kishore Kumar's ability to embody the voice of the actor on screen. It almost feels like Dutt himself is singing the song.
10 'Zindagi Ka Safar' (Safar, 1970)
It seems a sad song to end with, but it is an embodiment of Kishore Kumar's personality in many ways. He was a man of great charm, talent, mirth and sadness, and few can claim to have known the breadth of the phenomenon that was Kishore. Truly, koi samjha nahi, koi jaana nahin.
Read: Bappi Lahiri almost quit composing after Kishore Kumar’s death