A playback singer is a singer whose singing is pre-recorded for use in films. Playback singers record songs for soundtracks, and actors or actresses lip-sync the songs for cameras; the actual singer does not appear on the screen.
South Asian films produced in the Indian subcontinent are particularly known for using this technique. A majority of Indian films as well as Pakistani films typically include six or seven songs. After Alam Ara (1931), the first Indian talkie film, for many years singers made dual recordings for a film, one during the shoot, and later in the recording studio, until 1952 or 1953. Popular playback singers in India enjoy the same status as popular actors, and music directors, and they also receive wide public admiration. Most of the playback singers are initially trained in classical music, but they later often expand their range. Mohammed Rafi and Ahmed Rushdi are regarded as two of the most influential playback singers in South Asia. The sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, who have mainly worked in Hindi films, are often referred to as two of the best-known and prolific playback singers in India. In 2011, Guinness officially acknowledged Bhosle as the most recorded artist in music history.
Playback singing is a well-known component of Hollywood musicals though less frequent in other genres. Notable Hollywood performances include Anita Ellis as the voice of Rita Hayworth's Gilda. Both Anita Ellis's and Rita Hayworth's performances were so impressive that audiences did not know that Rita's voice had been dubbed. Called "the sexiest voice of 1946", Ellis's identity was not publicized. Rita Hayworth was instead credited on the soundtrack despite being sung by Ellis. This led audiences to believe for years that her voice belonged to Hayworth. There have been other uses of playback singing throughout Hollywood, including Marni Nixon in West Side Story for Natalie Wood's portrayal of Maria, in The King and I for Deborah Kerr's Anna Leonowens, and for Audrey Hepburn's Eliza in My Fair Lady; Bill Lee singing for John Kerr's Lieutenant Cable in South Pacific and for Christopher Plummer's Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Lindsay Ridgeway for Ashley Peldon's character as Darla Dimple in the animated film Cats Don't Dance, Claudia Brücken providing the singing voice for Erika Heynatz's character as Elsa Lichtmann in L.A. Noire, and Betty Noyes singing for Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain, a film in which playback singing is a major plot point.
- Dubbing, also known as looping or post-sync.
- Ghost singer
- List of Indian playback singers
- List of Nepalese singers
- List of Pakistani film singers
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- The dictionary definition of playback singer at Wiktionary