No one quite has a voice like Usha Uthup. That powerful (and almost manly) baritone made her a very, very distinctive voice. And having burst on to the scene as the voice meant for cabaret songs in the late 1960s, she’s continued to remain relevant even after more than five decades.
In an age where everyone wanted to either become like Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle – here was the more pragmatic Usha Uthup voice which distilled its specialty even after all these years.
Here are 10 songs by the legendary singer that prove there’s no one else like her:
1. One…Two…Cha Cha Cha
Composed by RD Burman, Usha Uthup became the voice of Aruna Irani in the film Shalimar, which also starred Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman and Shammi Kapoor. No one sings the English phrases, quite like her. Not even Asha Bhosle.
2. Doston Se Pyaar Kiya
Using her powerful voice to communicate the menace of the film’s antagonist, Shakaal, Usha Uthup bust her lungs to deliver the song which would become the main theme of the action-thriller.
3. Hari Om Hari
Kick-starting a partnership with the only musician whose sensibilities could use a voice like Usha Uthup’s, Bappi Lahiri composed this gem for Pyaara Dushman.
4. Rambha Ho Ho Ho
Appearing in the Indian remake of Hollywood classic Casablanca, this song went on to become one of the biggest ‘disco anthems’ of the year.
5. Uri Uri Baba
Reteaming with Bappi Lahiri, this cult-favourite song appeared in a Bengali called Bolidan where Usha Uthup made everyone groove with her voice.
Working with Mozart of Madras, Uthup lent her voice to this Dhol-version of the title song about a couple of runaway thieves. This is probably the only time that Usha sang in Punjabi.
7. Vande Mataram
Usha Uthup even gave us goosebumps with her rendition of our national song for Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, where Hrithik Roshan visits London in search of SRK. *wipes tears*
Making a comeback of sorts in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Saat Khoon Maaf, Usha Uthup took the lead in this song with Rekha Bhardwaj, which took a life of its own.
9. Hai Ye Maya
Singing for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Usha Uthup recorded this criminally underrated song for the terrible, terrible movie that was Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2.
10. Aami Shotti Bolchhi
Teaming up with the zany Vishal-Shekhar, Usha Uthup even dropped her first metal song about the beautiful city Kolkata for Sujoy Ghosh’s 2012 film Kahaani.
Happy birthday Usha Didi!