Nazia Hassan (April 3, 1965 – August 13, 2000)

I missed by a couple of weeks, but this April 3rd Nazia Hassan would have turned 50. For those of you who don’t know her, she was an incredibly popular Pakistani pop singer. Her career started when at the age of 15 (!) she sang Aap Jaisa Koi for a Bollywood film. She instantly rose to stardom in the subcontinent, becoming the youngest ever winner at the Indian Filmfare Awards (and the first Pakistani, something which in the 60 total years of the awards’ history has been managed by only three other Pakistanis).

When she released her Disco Deewane album the next year, it broke records, with more than 100,000 sold just in Mumbai in the first DAY. It charted in several other countries, including becoming the first South Asian pop album to top the charts in Brazil. She contributed massively to changing the entire music industry in the subcontinent, showing that pop could compete with the film soundtracks that had previously dominated.

She also obtained a law degree and after hosting a music show that helped discover and boost the popularity of many of Pakistan’s future pop stars, retired from the music business and worked for the UN. She supported lots of philanthropic and social causes and started an anti-drug group.

In 2000, she passed away from lung cancer at the age of 35 but remains an enduring beloved desi icon.