New Delhi: Indian singer Mohammed Rafi celebrates his birth anniversary today and is best known for the soulful melodies that have become a trademark of Bollywood's golden years. 

Well known for his versatility, Rafi could mould his voice to the persona and style of an actor, lip-syncing the song on screen in the movie. His musical skills are evident from his wide range of songs spanning over romance, qawwalis, ghazals, bhajans and even classical genres.

So, here are 10 lesser-known facts about the singer who was also known as the voice of Indian cinema. 

  • Born on this date in 1924, Mohammed Rafi was lovingly nicknamed Pheeko. Though he originally belonged to Kotla Sultan Singh in Amritsar he later moved to Lahore with his family. He breathed his last in Mumbai on July 31, 1980.
  • He even created a song to homage to Mahatma Gandhi following his assassination in 1948. The track was titled, Suno Suno Ae Duniyawalon, Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani and was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru to sing at his residence.

  • Rafi started singing by imitating the chants of a fakir in the streets of Amritsar. Later, he learnt classical music from Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwan Lal Mattoo and Firoze Nizami. 
  • He made his debut as a playback singer in Lahore in the duet Soniye Nee, Heeriye Nee with Zeenat Begum in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch (1944). His stint with Bollywood began in 1945 with Gaon Ki Gori starring Noor Jehan. The flick turned out to be the second-highest grossing film that year. 

  • He was a multilingual singer and could croon in Assamese, Konkani, Bhojpuri, English, Persian, Dutch, Spanish, Telugu, Maithili, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali and many others. He has sung about 4,516 Hindi songs, 112 other language songs and about 328 personal songs.
  • Rafi sang the highest number of duets with Asha Bhonsle, Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. 
  • He married twice but kept his first marriage a secret. This was revealed by his daughter-in-law Yasmin Khalid Rafi in her book, Mohammed Rafi My Abba. She wrote that Rafi married his uncle's daughter Bashera Bano at the age of 13 in Amritsar and the couple had a son. However, the marriage failed since Bashera refused to accompany him to India after losing her parents to the partition riots. 
  • He married again in 1944, at the age of 20, to Bilkis. He had three sons and three daughters from his second marriage.
  • Mohammed Rafi's burial was one of the largest funeral processions in India attended by over 10,000 people. In 2011, over 9,000 musical tributes were organised to celebrate his death anniversary.

  • He was awarded a silver medal in 1948 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1967, the Government of India awarded Mohammed Rafi with the highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.