When Adam Smith and David Ricardo extolled the virtues of specialisation and how it can unlock higher levels of productivity, they could scarcely have been thinking about a little girl born in Indore who would start singing with a singular devotion at age five, be correcting subtle errors in the pitch and tone of learners twice as old as her at age eight, and in fifteen short years, be recording a song every other day on average for the next decade - a level of output that cannot be imagined even for the most efficient machine, let alone a human being.
When Robert Solow theorised about total factor productivity and the idea that one’s output can unlock hitherto unachievable dimensions, by combining their existing factors of production more cleverly, he probably did not have the singer in mind who would add thirty six languages to her song repertoire. Or someone who used her eclectic tastes in music that ranged from enjoying the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin, to Nat King Cole, the Beatles, Barbra Streisand and Harry Belafonte to refine her own craft by using their influence.
When Jospeh Schumpeter talked about cycles of creative destruction and boom and busts, with new methods of production and new technology replacing the old, he would not have perhaps accounted for a performer who kept her voice tuned to sound perfect no matter the music recording technology was grooves on a vinyl or 0s and 1S on a computer processor, her pitch timbre and tone remaining almost a constant over seven decades.
Or when Nobel Winner Paul Romer theorised that new ideas and innovation are at the heart of the engine of growth, and that it comes from within, rather than being exogenous, he hadn’t, in all likelihood, heard a single song from the melody queen who had meticulously mastered every style and reinvented herself for every age of film music and stayed contemporary at every turn.
And when another econ Nobel winner, Daniel Kahneman, quoted Jonathan Haidt in his best selling book and said “The emotional tail wags the rational dog.” he may not have envisioned a nation, including its then premier, brought to tears by a singer with her heart-wrenching rendition of a Kavi Pradeep song.
She embodied all of that and more.
Her death certificate will read : died 2022, although we all know, it should really read, Lata Mangeshkar 1929 - infinity, and beyond.
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