It has been 20 years since the late Malaysian singer and songwriter Sudirman Hj. Arshad passed away on 22, February 1992. Sudirman Hj Arshad still lives in the hearts and memories of those who knew him. As for me, I am still keeping his original autograph that I got from him during his performance in KL. It is unbelievable that two decades have passed by so fast. He was known as the 'Singing Lawyer', the 'People's Singer' and the 'Elvis of Malaysia'.
Sudirman was born on 25 May 1954 in Temerloh, Pahang as the youngest of seven children born to Hj Arshad Hassan and Ramlah Dahlan. His passion for singing and entertaining started at a very young age, when his siblings and neighbors would happily let him entertain them.
Sudirman Arshad completed his secondary education in Sultan Abu Bakar School (SABS), Kuantan. After turning down a scholarship to further his studies in medicine, he studied law instead and received his degree from the University of Malaya. He was called to the bar and became a practising lawyer. He married Kamariah Jamaluddin in 1981. Their marriage did not last long and the couple divorced three years later.
Possessing of a clear piercing tenor with a surprising breadth of range and dynamic control especially at the extreme high end, Sudirman's voice was instantly recognizable every time one of his songs are played in local radio or television. His ability to act through his voice is evident from songs such as "Bercanda di Pasiran Pantai", a Latin-flavored duet with Anita Sarawak which displayed the sultry quality of his voice.
His unique talents had helped him to win many local competitions from Bintang RTM Best Singer (1976) to Muzik-Muzik TV3 Best Performer and Berita Harian Popularity contest being the Most Popular Artist. He topped Malaysian, Brunei and Indonesia charts with songs such as "Merisik Khabar", "Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini" and "Salam Terakhir".
In 15 April 1986, Sudirman held an open air concert on Chow Kit Road, which was the first time ever that a street concert drew a 100,000-strong crowd on a Monday night. It jammed the stretch of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Raja Muda to Jalan Raja Alang. Several fans fainted in the crowd, a few suffocated and were rushed to the hospital. Local newspaper, TheStar wrote that "Kuala Lumpur came to a standstill and it had nothing to do with the recession, but with one man, Malaysia's top entertainer, an electrifying performance and most memorable night".
Even today, his songs are popularly played especially during National Day and Hari Raya. Sudirman was also the first Malaysian singer to perform at The Paddock at the Hilton of Kuala Lumpur in 1983 and was the singing ambassador for companies such as Proton, Malaysia Airlines and Honda Cup. He was known for his versatility and sang Malay, Indian and Chinese songs with outstanding choreography. In 1989, Sudirman won the title "Best Performer" at the Asia Music Award 1989 contest at the Royal Albert Hall, London with his winning song titled "One Thousand Million Smiles".
Sudirman Arshad wrote his autobiography "Dari Dalam Sudir" in addition to some cartoons and weekly columns for magazines and some local newspapers such as Karangkraf. He was also a journalist and columnist, who wrote on various serious issues. Besides singing and writing, Sudirman also acted in a film called "Kami", which was released in 1982. Sudirman was also well known for his charity work with which he helped invite veteran artists in the slots of his singing shows aside from giving them generous donations. Money charity for mosques and people in need was something he would do willingly.
Sudirman Arshad also became Malaysia's first successful singer entrepreneur promoting Malaysia's most famous carbonated drink Sudi with business magazines and TV programs from Australia to Hong Kong featuring the drinks. Within six months, Sudi broke five per cent of the carbonated drink market. Later, Sudirman opened a franchise of Sudi Shoppe apparel and a Sudi restaurant. He was Malaysia's first singer to be on the cover of Malaysian Business and Asian Business magazine.
On 17th July 1991, Sudirman was admitted to Pusat Perubatan Tawakkal Kuala Lumpur (ICU) for 4 days. It was reported that he collapsed while singing at Butterworth, Penang. He died at 4 am on 22 February 1992 at the age of 37 in his sister’s (Datin Rudiah) house in Kuala Lumpur after 7 months suffering from pneumonia. Hundreds took part in his funeral procession. His remains were sent to his hometown in Temerloh, Pahang and was laid to rest at Chengal Muslim Cemetery, Temerloh, near the graves of his parents. Always in our Memories, Forever in our Hearts...Sudirman Hj Arshad.