In a career spanning five decades, his repertoire extended to 2500 songs in various regional languages, including popular songs such as 'Chalo ek baar phir se Ajnabi ban jayen hum dono' (Gumrah), and 'Neele gagan ke tale' (Hamraaz). His name however became most closely associated with patriotic songs including 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' in Manoj Kumar's film Upkaar. In 1972, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. He is perhaps most notable for lending his voice to actor Manoj Kumar in most of his films, mainly in patriotic genre of music.
Mahendra Kapoor was born in Amritsar, but soon moved to Mumbai. At an early age he was inspired by singer Mohammed Rafi but he started learning classical music under classical singers like Pt. Hussanlal, Pt. Jagannath Bua, Ustad Niaz Ahmed Khan, Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan and Pt.Tulsidaas Sharma. Kapoor created a style of his own and won the Metro Murphy All-India singing competition, which led to his debut as a playback singer in V. Shantaram's Navrang in 1958, singing Aadha Hai Chandrama Raat Aadhi, under the musical direction of C. Ramchandra.
Some of Kapoor's most notable songs were the ones he performed in B.R. Chopra's films (Dhool Ka Phool, Gumrah, Waqt, Hamraaz, Dhund and Nikaah) and for Manoj Kumar (Upkaar, Purab Aur Paschim).
Kapoor had a very large vocal range, and he is sometimes known as The Vibrant Voice of India. He was the first Indian playback singer to record music in English. He was asked by the group Boney M to sing their songs in Hindi with Musarat from Pakistan, which resulted in the Pop Album M-3. Some of the songs on the album are "Chori Chori Chalo!!"(Original, Hoorray! Hoorray! by Boney M), "O Meri Champe Ki Daali". Most of the songs sung by Mahendra Kapoor are famous, whether they are from B R Chopra movies or Manoj Kumar's movies. His song from 'Bandhan', 'Shakti'. 'Doli', 'Ek Nazar', 'Admi Aur Insaan', 'Sangam', 'Tawaif' are also quite popular.
Mahendra Kapoor also sang a duet with Mohammed Rafi. The song was "Kaisi Haseen Aaj Baharon Ki Raat" from the 1967 film "Aadmi", which was originally recorded as a duet with Rafi and Talat Mehmood. Manoj Kumar, one of the lead stars refused to use Talat's voice for him and the song was re-recorded with Kapoor replacing Talat. Mahendra Kapoor also sang the dohas, mantras, chopaiyan and also Title track of Mahabharat 1988 TV series.
Kapoor sung in a large number of Indian languages, and is the playback singer who has performed in the largest number of in Gujarati, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and Marathi movies. He also performed the title song for the TV series Mahabharat. In Marathi he was very popular for being the voice of Dada Kondke in all his movies. In spite of being associated with Dada Kondke's colloquial style his singing for Marathi movies was not limited to Dada Kondke's movies only.
Kapoor was married and had three daughters and also one son. His son Rohan Kapoor is an actor and singer, who acted in a few films in the 1980s such as Yash Chopra's Faasle (1985) and Love 86 (1986), and Prakash Mehra's Imandaar, and later did stage shows together with his father.
On 27 September 2008, Kapoor died following a cardiac failure. He was survived by his wife, children, children-in-law and grandchildren.
Mahendra Kapoor is one of the golden era singers when Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Manney Dey was ruling the main platform of playback singers of the bollywood. He remained as one of the most popular singer in the Bollywood who has given his voice to almost all of the popular heroes like Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Shahsi Kapoor, Biswajeet, Raj Kumar, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bahchcan, Manoj Kumar, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughina Sinha and many more. For Punjabi movies he has given his voice to Varendra, Mehar Mittal, Prem Nath and many more. Till to date, there is many clones of Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh but there is none close clone to his voice. His voice was the most highest vocal in Bollywood.
Hindi"Neele Gagan Ke Tale" – Hamraaz (1967)
"Chalo Ek Baar" – Gumrah (1963)
"Kisi Pathar Ki Moorat Se" – Hamraaz (1967)
"Lakhon Hain Yahan Dilwale" – Kismat (1968)
"Mere Desh Ki Dharti" – Upkar (1967)
"Iktara Bole" – Yaadgar (1970)
"Aur Nahin Bas Aur Nahin" – Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974)
"Bharat Ka Rahnewala Hoon" – Purab Aur Paschim (1970)
"Hey Ramchander keh gaye Siya se"- Gopi (1970 film) (1970)
"Fakira Chal Chala Chal" – Fakira (1975)
"Badal Jaye Agar Mali" – Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966)
"Mera Pyar Woh Hai" – Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1965)
"Tum Agar Saath Dene Ka Wada Karo" – Hamraaz (1967)
"Beete hue lamhon ki kasak saath to hogi" – Nikaah
"Ab Ke Baras" – Kranti (1981)
"Tere Pyaar Ka Aasra" – Dhool Ka Phool (1959)
"Na Muh Chupa Ke Jiyo" – Hamraaz (1967)
"KAB TALAK SHAMA JALI" – [PAINTER BABU](1983)
"JAB YAAD KI BADLI CHAHTI HAI" – [PAINTER BABU](1983)
"JISKE SAPNE HAME ROJ AATE RAHE" – [GEET](1970)
"YE KALI JAB TALAK PHOOL BANKE KHILE" – [AAYE DIN BAHAAR KE](1966)
Title Song of Mahabharat (1988)
Title Song of Vishnupuran (2002)
MarathiTi Yete Aneeka Jate..Yetana kadhi kalya aneete
He Chincheche zad dise maj chinar vrukshapari
Ratris khel chale ya gudh chandanyacha, sampel na kadhihi ha khel savalyancha
Abol Zalis ka saajani..
Saang kadhi kalanar tula..
Sur tech chhedita..
Madhu ithe ana chandra tithe..
Swapnaat pahile je te roop hech hote..
Nako menaka nako urvashi..
Kmnnmm1972 – Padma Shri
National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer
1968 Won – "Mere Desh Ki Dharti" – Upkar
Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer
1964 Won – "Chalo Ek Bar" – Gumrah
1968 Won – "Neele Gagan Ke Tale" – Hamraaz
1968 Nominated – "Mere Desh Ki Dharti" – Upkar
1975 Won – "Aur Nahi Bus Aur Nahi" – Roti Kapda Aur Makaan
1977 Nominated – "Sunke Teri Pukar" – Fakira
1967 Won – "Mian Tansen Award" – Sati Nari – Tum Nacho Ras Barse
2000 Won – "Bollywood Music Awards- New York" – Life Time Achievement Award
2002 Won – "Lata Mangeshkar Puruskar" – Madhya Pradesh State Award
2008 Won – "Dada Saheb Phalke Academy Award" – Phalke Golden Voice Singer
2008 Won – "Maharashtra State Award" – Life Time Achievement