Lata started her career in the 1940s. Lata's first major break was with the song 'Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chhora', penned by Nazim Panipat for the movie 'Majboor' in 1948. The song became her first big breakthrough film hit and after that, she recorded 'Uthaye ja unke sitam' for 'Andaz' and Aayega Aanewala for 'Mahal' in 1949, which sealed her destiny forever. In the 1950s, she delivered one hit after another. 'Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua' from 'Shree 420' (1955) is till date one of the most romantic songs of all time. 'Man Dole Mera Tan Dole' from 'Naagin' (1954) while 'Jahan Main Jaati Hoon' and 'Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein Hum' from 'Chori Chori' (1956) are some brilliant songs from the decade. 'Aaja Re Pardesi' from 'Madhumati' (1958) won her accolades while 'Yaad Kiya Dil Ne' from 'Patita' (1953) is one of her best songs.
In the 60s, when the industry was moving towards colour and superstars of the generation, Lata's career also found new heights. 'Jo vada kiya wo nibhana padega' from 'TajMahal' (1963) and 'Aaja Aayi Bahaar' from 'Rajkumar' (1964) are two of the most iconic songs in the history of Indian cinema. Tujhe jeevan ki dor se from 'Asli Naqli' (1962), Lag Ja Gale Ki from 'Woh Kaun Thi?' (1964) and Dil jo na kah saka from 'Bheegi Raat' (1965) are brilliant songs but were dwarfed by songs like Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna and Piya Tose Naina Laage Re from 'Guide' (1965) and Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyan Milana plus Ye Samaa Samaa Hai Pyar Ka from 'Jab Jab Phool Khile' (1965). There was also the classic movie 'Aradhana' (1969) that had the famous Chanda Hai Tu Mera Suraj Hai Tu and Kora Kagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera, immortalised by Mangeshkar. During this era, Lata released her patriotic single 'Ae mere watan ke logo' which is etched in everyone's mind.
Known to be a soulful singer, Lata showed her fun side with 'Chadti Jawani Meri Chaal Mastani', Dilbar Dil Se Pyare and Kitna Pyara Wada Hai in 'Caravan' (1971) and her sad side in Raina Beeti Jaye from 'Amar Prem' (1972). On the other hand, she proved her versatility with Tere Bina Zindagi Se and Tum Aa Gaye Ho Noor Aa Gaya (Aandhi, 1975) making the 70s one of the most epic decades for Bollywood music.
Shunning the predominant tone of disco music, Lata gave some of her best songs of this decade. Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum and Dekha Ek Khwaab from 'Silsila' (1981), Tune o rangeele kaisa jaadu kiya from 'Kudrat' (1981), Mere Naseeb Mein in 'Naseeb' (1980), Main Solah Baras Ki in 'Karz' (1980), hum bane tum bane 'Ek Duje Ke Liye' (1981) are some of them.
Whether it's a Shah Rukh Khan movie or Salmaan Khan, Lata's voice became indispensable to their film songs in the 1990s. Tu Mere Saamne from 'Darr' (1993) and every song of 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' (1995) including Mere Khwabon Main, Ho Gaya Hai Tujhko, Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna, Tujhe Dekha To made her a legend to the 90s generation. There was also that every song of 'Dil To Pagal Hai' (1997) including Are Re Are, Bholi Si Surat, Dholna, Pyaar Kar, Koi Ladki Hai and Dil To Pagal Hai showed her range which is not restricted by an era.
The songs of 'Hum Aapke Hain Kaun...!' (1994) including Didi Tera Devar Deewana, Ye Mausam Ka Jaadu, Maye Ni Maye, Joote Dedo, Paise Lelo, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Lo Chali Main, Dhiktana proved she can sing almost anything! There was also the hits of 'Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai' (1998) including Madhosh Dil Ki Dhadkan, Is Dil Mein Kya Ha.
Her final era of playback singing in 2000s saw her leave on a high note with massive hits like Humko Humise Chura Lo, Aankhein Khuli from 'Mohabbatein' (2000), O Paalanhaare from 'Lagaan' (2001) and the massive title song of 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham' (2001).
She continued the hit-making with every song of 'Veer Zaara' (2004) including Tere Liye, Yeh Hum Aa Gaye Hain Kahan. Her last superhit was for A. R. Rahman with Lukka Chuppi from 'Rang De Basanti' (2006).
Taking a cue from her songs, we can say Lata will be remembered down the ages as she sang, ''Meri Awaz hi Pehechan hai, Gar Yaad Rahe."