Usha was born in a Tamil brahmin family that hailed from Tamil
Nadu, in Madras (now Chennai) in 1947. Her father Sami Iyer,
later became the police commissioner of Bombay. She has three
sisters Uma Pocha, Indira Srinivasan and Maya Sami, all of
whom are singers and two brothers, one of whom is named Shyam.
She was the fifth of six children. As a child, she lived in
the police quarters at Lovelane in Byculla in Bombay and attended
a local school.
she was in school she was thrown out of music class because
she didn't fit in with a voice like hers. But her music teacher
recognized that she had some music in her and would give her
clappers or triangles to play. Even though she was not formally
trained in music, she grew up in an atmosphere of music. Her
parents used to listen to a wide range from Western classical
to Hindustani and Carnatic including Kishori Amonkar and Bade
Ghulam Ali Khan on radio and she used to join them. She used
to enjoy listening to Radio Ceylon.
next door neighbour was S.M.A. Pathan, who was then the deputy
commissioner of police. His daughter, Jamila, inspired Usha
to learn Hindi, wear salwar kameez and take up Indian classical
music. This fusion approach helped her to pioneer her unique
brand of Indian pop in the 1970s.
Her first public singing occurred when she was nine. Her sisters
who were already exploring a music career, took her to a musician
called Ameen Sayani who gave her an opportunity to sing on
the Ovaltine Music Hour in Radio Ceylon. She sang a number
called "Mockingbird Hill". After that, several appearances
followed through her teenage years.
Uthup started singing in a small nightclub in Chennai called
as Nine Gems in the basement of the erstwhile Safire theater
complex on Mount Road, when she was 20, wearing a saree and
leg callipers. Her performance was so well received that the
owner of the nightclub asked her to stay on for a week. After
her first night club gig, she began singing in Calcutta at
night clubs such as "Talk of the Town" and "Trincas".
She met her future husband Uthup in Trincas. After Trincas,
her next engagement took her to Delhi where she sang at the
Oberoi hotels. By happenstance, a film crew belonging to Navketan
unit including Shashi Kapoor visited the nightclub and they
offered her a chance to sing movie playback. As a result,
she started her Bollywood career with Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
Originally, she was supposed to sing Dum Maro Dum along with
Asha Bhosle. However, as a result of internal politicking
on the part of other singers, she lost that chance but ended
up singing an English verse.
1968, she recorded covers of two pop songs in English, "Jambalaya"
and The Kingston Trio's "Greenback Dollar", on an
EP, Love Story, and "Scotch and Soda", another Kingston
Trio song, which sold very well in the Indian market. She
also spent some time in London during this early period. She
was a frequent visitor to Vernon Corea's BBC office at the
Langham in London and was interviewed on "London Sounds
Eastern" on BBC Radio London.
sang several songs in the 1970s and 1980s for music directors
R D Burman and Bappi Lahiri. She also reprised some of R.D.
Burman songs that were sung by others such as Mehbooba Mehbooba
and Dum Maro Dum and popularised them to a distinct end.
of her famous songs for movies include:
Tashan Mein - Tashan (2008)
Teri Meri Merry Christmas - Bow barracks Forever (2007)
Kabhi Pa Liya Tho Kabhi Kho Diya - Jogger's Park (2003)
Din Hai Na Ye Raat - Bhoot (2003)
Vande Mataram - Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham (2001)
Raja Ki Kahani - Godmother (1999)
Daud - Daud (1998)
Vegam Vegam Pogum Pogum - Anjali (1991)
Koi Yahan Aha Nache Nache - Disco Dancer (1982)
Ramba Ho - Armaan (1981)
Hari Om Hari - Pyaara Dushman (1980)
Doston Se Pyar Kiya - Shaan (1980)
Shaan Se... - Shaan (1980)
Ek Do Cha Cha Cha - Shalimar (1978)
Jazzy Joe with Usha Uthup
In addition, she has also sung as a playback singer for the
following Bollywood movies: Dhol (2007), June R (2005), Joggers'
Park (2003), Jajantaram Mamantaram (2003), Ek Tha Raja (1996),
Dushman Devta (1991), Bhavani Junction (1985), Hum Paanch
(1980), and Purab Aur Pachhim (1970) among others.
is a stage performer and gave performances all over the world
and is known for her lively stage presence. She has been felicitated
with several awards over the years, some of which include
Rajiv Gandhi Purashkar for National Integration for quality
music, Mahila Shiromoni Purashkar for international peace,
and Channel [V] award for outstanding achievement.
She recorded her first album with Louis Banks for which she
was paid Rs. 3500. Since then, she has recorded numerous albums.
Usha's Hindi version of Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Til You
Get Enough, titled '"Chhupke Kaon Aya'", can be
found on the album Tom Middleton - The Trip (2004). A cover
of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" is on another
Tom Middleton album, Cosmosonica - Tom Middleton Presents
Crazy Covers Vol. 1 (2005). She recently recorded a song called
"Rhythm and Blues" with the Indian Rock Band Parikrama
which appeared on Channel V on April 23 2007.
Uthup is also an actress, often singing and acting in India's
signature musical films. She acted in "Pothen Vava"
a Malayalam movie in 2006 as Kurisuveettil Mariyamma.
made a cameo appearance in the movie "Bombay To Goa"
with Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha in 1972. In 2007,
she appeared in "Bow Barracks Forever" directed
by Anjun Dutt as herself. Again in 2007, she appeared in "Hattrick"
music video as herself.
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