Iqbal Singh Sethi was born in Rawalpindi, on the 1st of January, 1934, then Undivided India, to S. Gopal Singh Sethi and Lachmi Kaur Sethi. His father fondly known as Darji, was already a decorated war hero. He had fought World War 1 as JCO in the Punjab Regiment Army and was awarded the rare medal, Kesar e Hind and a sword by King George the Vth for his bravery.
Iqbal Singh lost his mother at a very young age of 6 and at the age of 11 his family of seven migrated and settled in Pune where he completed his education. His elder sister Raj Kaur Anand played a crucial role in his upbringing and it was at her request that Iqbal Singh joined the Royal British Navy in 1949 where he served for 20 years. He was witness to Queen Elizabeth II Coronation in June 1953. He completed his Marine Engineering in Diesel from England and had served all England Naval bases as an Indian Sailor on training.
Iqbal Singh Sethi, like his brave father, participated in 3 wars, 1961 Goa Liberation War, 1962 China war, 1965 Pakistan war and was awarded many service medals.
It was one of his early travel years as an ensign in the Navy, that he discovered his dancing and singing skills. His vessel had travelled to the Royal Navy minesweepers base at Hythe. This was where he participated in the South of England Rock’n’Roll Championship and danced away to winning not only the championshp but also the hearts of the people.
Back in Bombay (as it was known those days, now Mumbai), S. Iqbal Singh polished his jiving skills under the guidance of Ms. Ruby Roy. He went on to perform at Taj Hotel Jam sessions on Sundays and also at the Astoria and the Venus Hotel. He soon became popular and was nicknamed the “King of Rock N Roll of India”. Iqbal Singh Sethi was the first sikh to perfrom without giving up on his religion.
He also had the opportunity to dance and sing in the movie, ‘Ek Phool Chaar Kaante’ starring Sunil Dutt and Waaheeda Rehman on the song “Beautiful Bay of Broadway, Rock n Roll on my heart” before Navy gave him the ultimatum and he chose to serve the Nation. Also in a Salman Khan movie Tubelight his performance of the Ek Phool Chaar Kaante was highlighted as the back screen for Salman’s performance.
Iqbal Singh Sehti moved to Chembur in 1969 with his family. Back then the Chembur camp area was still underdeveloped. He was one of the early residents that helped build the present Chembur Camp and the Chembur Singh Sahab Gurudwara.
Iqbal Singh Sethiji passed away last year in November 2021 at an age of 88. But he will continue to be remembered as the Elvis Presley of India.