Usha Mangeshkar was born in 1953 into a family of musicians and music lovers. Her father Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar was a classical singer who passed away when she was extremely young. Youngest of the sisters – Lata & Asha, she too was trained in classical singing. However, she had a voice quality not suitable for all. Hence, her growth as a playback singer in Hindi films could not take her to those heights which her other two sisters had scaled.
Usha Mangeshkar got her first break in the 1954 films like Subah Ka Tara, Naukari & Chandni Chowk. She sang the very popular 'Bhabhi aayeee…' in V.Shantaram’s Subah Ka Tara (1954) for C Ramchandra. The song was picturized on Baby Rajshree and was a big hit. It made Usha specialist children's songs. After Subah Ka Tara, Usha sang again for C Ramchandra in Azaad the song ‘Aplam chaplam…’ which became very popular. However, she gained immense popularity for the devotional songs rendered by her for the low-budget movie, Jai Santoshi Maa (1975), which created new records at the box office. Usha greatly admired the singing talents of KL Saigal and Noorjehan. She also learnt music from renowned musicians like Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Ustad Aman Ali Khan. Along with Lata, she also attended concerts by Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. It is not a well know fact that Usha Mangeshkar first studied classical dance before taking up professional singing.
Having music in her genes, Usha has rendered many a soulful numbers but did not pursue her playback singing in Hindi films with much force. Only occasionally she allowed herself a digression from her private hobbies of painting and housekeeping to sing chartbusters like ‘Sultana sultana…’ from Tarana, the raunchy ‘Mungda…’ from Inkaar and the songs of Jai Santoshi Maa. On the other hand, her work was getting more and more appreciated in Marathi films and she gained became the most sought after singer in Marathi cinema. Usha Tai, as she is fondly known amongst her fans, still mesmerizes the present generation with the evergreen number for Inkaar 'Mungda…'. However, she has been immortalized by her songs in the devotional film 'Jai Sangoing through severe financial cruch while making this movie. The film was made on a shoe-string budget and has bhajans by Kavi Pradeep. Since he could not afford bigger singers, he chose Usha Mangeshkar. The movie evoked a tremendous response from the audiences and proved to be one of the biggest hits of all times. Till date, the songs are played on every religious occasion in the country. She earned nomination for the Filmfare Best Female Playback Singer award for her song, "Main to aarti…," in that movie. She sang the same songs again for that movie's remake in 2006. Usha has a strong interest in painting and dancing and is a trained classical dancer.
Usha Tai never considered her singing career seriously. She was very fond of traveling and would accompany her mother or brother whenever they were traveling. She sang whichever songs came to her. Most of the times, composers would give her songs which Lata or Asha could not do due to their busy schedules. Even today Usha gets invited for a lot of concerts all over Maharashtra and she is often requested to sing Lavni songs. But she insists on singing bhajans and bhau-geet, which she really loves.