Story highlights

Pop star soared to fame in the 1980s with his band Vital Signs

He later gave up stardom to focus on religious music, or "nasheeds"

CNN  — 

He soared to fame as the front man of one of Pakistan’s most iconic pop bands. And then at the height of his career, he gave it up to devote his life to God.

Junaid Jamshed, who at one time rivaled Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt in popularity in his country, was one of at least 43 people who died when a Pakistan International Airlines flight crashed on its way from Chitral to Islamabad.

He was 52.

“The voice of my youth, the voice of my generation,” tweeted Huma Shah, a TV broadcaster and one of many who grew up listening to Jamshed’s music.

An image from Jamshed's Facebook page from October.

From pop to piety

Jamshed soared to fame in the 1980s with Vital Signs, one of Pakistan’s first pop bands.

From its look – leather jackets, stone-washed jeans – to its sound – fresh, innovative, modern – Vital Signs signaled change in a country that was just emerging from a long period of martial law and Islamization after the death of military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1988.

Vital Signs was one of those acts that was both commercially and critically lauded, and its impact is still felt in the country’s pop music scene today.

The musician also made a name for himself as a TV personality and fashion designer, heading his own clothing line.

After a successful career as a solo singer in the 1990s, Jamshed gave up pop stardom to focus on religious music, or nasheeds. Nasheeds are performed a cappella and are paeans to the glory of God and religion.

“He was an icon for the public and a role model within his family. Everyone looked up to him,” said Ali Azmat, a good friend and a rock superstar. “That’s why he turned to religion. To seek the greater good. I know people criticized and questioned him but he was sincere in that path.”

Azmat and Jamshed met nearly 30 years ago when Jamshed was a student at University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, and Azmat lived nearby. They developed a bond. They rode around on Azmat’s motorbike and later walked the Great Wall of China together, Azmat recalled.

“I saw him just a few months ago and we were reminiscing on old times,” said Azmat, who was the lead singer of the rock band Junoon and now has a solo career. “We shared our musical journeys because they happened at the same time.”

Even in his new incarnation, Jamshed was never far from the limelight.

In 2014, Jamshed was investigated for blasphemy after he was caught on camera allegedly insulting one of Prophet Mohammed’s wives, the BBC reported. He later apologized for his remarks.

He came out of the controversy unscathed and continued to amass a significant following even outside Pakistan.

At the time of his death, the singer had almost 2.8 million Facebook fans. This year, he also placed in a list of World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.

Fans react online

Jamshed’s last tweet, posted Sunday, showed pictures of “Heaven on Earth” in Chitral, the northern city where the plane took off.

Jamshed’s high-profile fans shared their sadness at the news online.

Leading Islamic scholar Mufti Ismail Menk tweeted: “May the Almighty grant ease to all in the tragedy.”

While Pakistani actor and director Hamza Ali Abbasi shared image of himself with the former pop star.

And Arif Alvi, founding member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, sent prayers for his friend Jamshed.

CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, and Sheena McKenzie wrote from London. CNN’s Holly Yan, Jon Ostrower, Andreena Narayan, Ralph Ellis and Muhammad Lila contributed to this report.