Renowned singer S.B. John passes away

Renowned singer S.B. John passes away

He will be best remembered for his 'Tu jo nahin hai to kuchh bhi nahin' hai number.
06 Jun, 2021

Renowned singer Sunny Benjamin John, known in showbiz circles and among his admirers as S.B. John, passed away in Karachi on Saturday after a long illness. He was 90.

He leaves behind four sons and a daughter.

According to his son Glenn, Mr John was born in October 1930 in Karachi. He studied at St Paul’s School after which he went to Kalyan Sangeet Vidyala, situated near Burns Road, to learn music from Pandit Ram Chandra Trivedi. He had gone there to learn the tabla but his guru told him that he should sing. At the time of partition of the subcontinent, his guru migrated to India.

Mr John began to perform professionally in 1950 when he joined Radio Pakistan. The love of music ran in his family as his grandfather, too, was an amateur vocalist. Mr John appeared a great deal on the Karachi stage but was catapulted to national fame after singing the song ‘Tu jo nahin hai to kuchh bhi nahin hai’ for the film Savera in 1959.

Although he had other film tracks to his credit, it was the above-mentioned song — written by Fayyaz Hashmi and composed by Master Manzoor Husain — for which he became famous. He also sang quite a few ghazals.

Talking to Dawn, his eldest son Robin John said, “He was a nice person and a good friend of his children. He would go for fishing and take us along. He was fond of hunting and cooking. I and one of my brothers have taken after him as far as cooking is concerned. Brothers Donald and Glenn joined the world of music like him.”

Music composer Arshad Mahmud said, “S.B. John was an interesting person. He always had so many anecdotes to tell about music. He knew a lot about music. I met him quite often, even when he used to work for a bank. He was into deep-sea fishing. I never had the chance to work with him but we used to meet quite often and whenever we ran into each other, we talked about music.

“He knew all Karachi-based musicians. Also, he was a good friend of Mehdi Hasan Khan Sahib. Both worked for Radio Pakistan where they became friends,” Mr Mahmud said.

Glenn John added, “He was an amazing dad, old fashioned but there was a great friend in him. However, he was a strict teacher when it came to music. He was disciplined about the art. He would not tolerate non-seriousness. He used to tell my mother that in school his children could speak in English but around the house they would have to speak in Urdu because it’s their mother tongue. He had a wide collection of books. He had the first print of the book Roots [by Alex Haley].”

Mr John was given the President’s Pride of Performance award in 2011.

His funeral services will be held after Mr Glenn, who lives in Sweden, arrives in Karachi.

Originally published in Dawn, June 6th, 2021


Integrity Jun 06, 2021 11:36am
RIP! Mr John was a man with a golden voice!
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Amir Shah Jun 06, 2021 11:57am
RIP. He was absolutely fantastic singer, his just one song was the best of all time and it’s still wonderful to listen to.
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Imtiaz Ali Khan Jun 06, 2021 12:07pm
Singed to make others happy. A great Pakistani brother we lost today. RIP John
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IMTIAZ FARUQUI Jun 06, 2021 12:55pm
He was a gentleman and a scholar, well versed in English and Urdu . He composed some wonderful Ghazals and Geets, had a great sense of humor , our common friend Mr Shoukat Ali Shah Bukhari took care of him in his last days. We will all miss him . May he rest in peace.
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Jamil Kaludi Jun 06, 2021 12:55pm
Lots of beautiful, wonderful, nostalgic moments of childhood and adolescence associated with his beautiful melodious voice. He had a remarkable contribution to an era of music in Pakistan. May he Rest in Peace.
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Zak Jun 06, 2021 01:17pm
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Changez Khan Jun 06, 2021 02:01pm
An outstanding singer. My favorite song 'Tu jo nahin hai to kuchh bhi nahin' . RIP.
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Chrís Dăn Jun 06, 2021 02:28pm
RIP. Tu jo naheen hae to kuch bhi naheen hae. Respects.
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Hawk Jun 06, 2021 03:07pm
Ohhh what a sweet singer! RIP.
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Syed Irfan Ali Jun 06, 2021 03:31pm
Rest in peace.
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M. Saeed Jun 06, 2021 04:15pm
Going peacefully at 90, is a life well spent in this world. May his soul RIP.
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Tajammal Jun 06, 2021 06:26pm
He has achieved worldwide fame for singing only one ghazal, which is a 'GEM'.
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Taj Ahmad - USA Jun 06, 2021 06:57pm
RIP to a great singer S.B.John, Ameen!!!
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well-wisher Jun 06, 2021 07:20pm
Radio PK and others should play 'to jo nahi hay to...' many times to honor Mr. John, a son of PK. RIP.
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Shahid Jun 06, 2021 08:55pm
'Tu jo nahin he to kuchh bhi nanin he'. RIP. The unique mark he has left is as fresh today as the first day it created vibrations in air.
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Zak Jun 06, 2021 10:24pm
PTI government should initiate a fund which artists, actors, singers, writers etc can contribute during working life and in retirement they can have a pension from the fund. They are our talent much admired by the world and their contributions are immense. We need to look after them, in their retirment .
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Zafar Yousufzai Jun 07, 2021 03:12am
The first impression is the last impression. He will always be remembered for one song evergreen..
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Saif Zulfiqar Jun 07, 2021 10:52am
Mr.John, you will always be remembered. Rest in peace.
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Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Jun 07, 2021 07:25pm
What a grave, grim, gruesome and great tragedy? Inna Lilla Hay Waa Inna Illehey Rajayoon.
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AZAM AKBAR Jun 07, 2021 09:47pm
He was an honour to Pakistan and Pakistanis. Rest In Peace.
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k k tiwari Jun 07, 2021 10:48pm
i enjoy tu jo nahin he , almost once a week .I first listen this some where in 1962 since then regularly.
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Nasser Jun 08, 2021 01:49am
One song made him immortal; one of the greatest songs ever. May his soul rest in peace; Ameen!
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