Mehdi Hassan Khan (Urdu: مہدی حسن خان ) (July 18, 1927 – June 13, 2012) was a Pakistani ghazal singer and a former playback singer for Lollywood. He is famously known as the “King of ghazal”, and was highly regarded in the Pakistan film industry. He was honoured with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan, and Gorkha Dakshina Bahu by the Government of Nepal. He died On 13 June 2012 after a protracted illness, in a private hospital in Karachi.
Mehdi Hassan was born on 18 July 1927 in a village called Luna in Rajasthan, India into a family of traditional musicians. He claims to be the 16th generation of hereditary musicians hailing from the Kalawant clan of musicians. Mehdi Hassan had his musical grooming from his father Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Ismail Khan who were both traditional Dhrupad singers. Hassan started to perform at a young age and the first concert of dhrupad and kheyal with his elder brother is reported to have been held in Fazilka Bungla, near present DC House (1935) of Undivided Punjab. After the Partition of India, 20-year-old Hassan and his family migrated to Pakistan and suffered severe financial hardships.
To make both the ends meet Mehdi started working in Chichawatni, in a bicycle shop. He later became a car and diesel tractor mechanic. Despite the hardships, his passion for music didn’t wither and he kept up the routine of practice on a daily basis.
The struggle ended when Mehdi Hassan was given the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan in 1957, primarily as a thumri singer, which earned him recognition within the musical fraternity. At the time, Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and Mukhtar Begum were considered the stalwarts of ghazal rendition.
He also had a passion for Urdu poetry and began to experiment by singing ghazals on a part-time basis. He cites radio officers Z.A. Bukhari and Rafiq Anwar as additional influences in his progression as a ghazal singer. He is known as the best ghazal singer of all times.
Following a severe illness in the late 80s, Mehdi Hassan stepped down from playback singing. Later due to severity of his illness he completely departed from music. In October 2010, HMV released “Sarhadein” in which probably the first and last duet song “Tera Milana” featuring Mehdi Hassan and Lata Mangeshkar was released. This song was composed by Mr. Hassan himself written by Farhat Shahzad. Mr. Hassan recorded it in Pakistan in 2009, and Lata Mangeshkar later heard the track and recorded her part in India in 2010 and later mixed together for a duet.
He had been suffering from a serious lung condition for the few years before his death in 2012. There were rumours of his death on 13/01/2012, however his son Asif Mehdi confirmed that the death rumours were fake, and that he was responding to treatments and recovering then Mehdi Hasan passed away at around 12pm on 13th June, 2012, at Agha Khan Hospital Karachi after suffering a 12 years long tenure of lung,chest and urinary tract diseases.
He had been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions: the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz granted to him by Gen Ayub Khan; the Pride of Performance bestowed on him by Gen Ziaul Haq; and the Hilal-i-Imtiaz conferred by Gen Pervez Musharraf. Besides the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, he was presented the Saigal Award in Jalandhar, India, in 1979, whereas the Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award was given to him in Nepal in 1983. Recently, he travelled to Dubai to receive yet another award.