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Legendary Bollywood singer Manna Dey dies at 94

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Legendary Bollywood singer Manna Dey, whose husky voice dominated the soundtracks of Indian movie classics for more than 60 years, died in hospital on Thursday aged 94.

The playback singer, who had been struggling with ill health for several months, died in the southern city of Bangalore city after suffering multiple organ failure, a hospital spokesman told AFP.

"We are saddened by his loss, but he died peacefully. His last rites will be performed later in the day," his son-in-law Jnanranjan Deb, who was at the singer's bedside when he died, told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Dey, part of the golden era of Bollywood from the 1940s to the 1960s, was a versatile singer who enthralled generations of music lovers and moviegoers with his romantic ballads but also faster modern songs.

Bollywood stars including Amitabh Bachchan paid tribute to the musician, who recorded more than 3,000 songs during his career in numerous languages.

"Manna Dey, stalwart of the music world, passes away. Flooded with memories and his songs," Bachchan wrote on Twitter.

Born in Kolkata in May 1919 as Prabodh Chandra Dey, he was given the nickname Manna by his uncle K.C. Dey, a well-known singer and actor who was a great influence on his nephew.

After he graduated from college, Dey travelled to Mumbai where he was first employed as an assistant to a music director, before making his debut as a playback singer in the 1943 film "Tamanna" (Desire).

His first big hit came seven years later in "Mashaal" (Torch) and his career went on to span more than six decades.

He became the singing voice for superstar Bachchan in some of his earlier hits such as "Sholay" (Embers) and "Zanjeer" (Chains) in the 1970s.

Some of his best-known tracks were sung with fellow star playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. He also recorded numerous songs with Asha Bhosle, Suman Kalyanpur and Mohammed Rafi.

His most popular songs included the 1970 hits "Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli" (Life is such a puzzle) for the film "Anand" (Happiness) and "Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo" (Hey brother, watch where you are going) for "Mera Naam Joker" (My Name is Joker).

Dey's last recording for the movie "Umar" (Age) was in 2006.

The singer was as much at ease with a classical Indian song as he was with a peppy, youthful one. As well as Hindi, he sang in regional languages such as Bengali, Malayalam, Bhojpuri and Gujarati.

He won various awards for his work in the music industry, including the Dadasaheb Phalke, the highest award in Indian cinema, in 2007 from the Indian government.

But some felt Dey did not enjoy the same levels of fame and celebrity as his contemporaries Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar, with whom he recorded a boisterous song for "Padosan" (Neighbour) in 1968.

"Manna Dey had a unique voice. He will live on through his songs," actor Shabana Azmi, one of many who paid tribute, wrote on Twitter.

Dey is survived by his two daughters. His wife Sulochana died of cancer last year.

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