WHENEVER anyone mentions the name of renowned singer S.B. John, his immortal hit song Tu jo nahin hai tou kuchh bhi nahin hai comes to mind. The popularity of this song has not declined since 1959 when he sang it in the composition of great Master Manzoor Hussain and famous lyricist Fayyaz Hashmi for film Savera.

S.B. John died recently (June 5) after living all his 90 years of life in Karachi, the city he loved. Indian film producer Mahesh Bhatt had so much liking for the song that he re-recorded its sad version in the voice of John’s son Glenn John for the film Woh Lamhe. Besides S.B. John, there are many other singers in the subcontinent whose only one film or non-film song became the cause of their popularity.

Pakistani film industry’s playback singer Munir Hussain sang for many films but he is mostly known for his rendering of Saifuddin Saif’s unique lyrics Qarar lootne wale, tu pyar ko tarse for the 1957 hit film Saat Laakh. Similarly, Saleem Raza was popular for his Jane baharan, rashk-e-chaman for the 1962 film Azra.

There are other singers whose only one non-film songs became a super hit. These include Rahim Shah’s Pehle to kabhi kabhi ghum tha and Ahmad Jehanzeb’s Ek baar kaho tum meri ho which was a poem by Ibne Insha. Dr. Amjad Parvez’s Jo bhi kuchh hai, mohabbat ka phelao hai, beautifully sung by him in raag kaushak dhani, also falls in this category.

Across the border, Kavi Pradeep sang Pinjre ke panchhi re, tera dard na jane koi for the 1957 film Avinash Viyas Nagmani. The song is still remembered with nostalgia by the music lovers belonging to that era. Kamal Barot sang Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics Suna hai jab se mausam hai pyar ke qabil in her childlike voice for the 1961 film Ramu Dada and it became an instant hit.

Mubarak Begum rendered 178 songs for Hindi films, but Kabhi tanhaiyon main yoon, sung by her for the 1961 film Hamari Yaad Aaegi, stands out.

There are several other similar examples. Nevertheless, among them the fame achieved by S.B. John for his only hit film song is unsurpassed.

Parvez Rahim
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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