In his early years he became a popular movie star, branching out into Arabesk (a Turkish musical genre), popular music and even composition – he penned more than 300 songs, many of them written for use in his films. A true polymath, Zeki also achieved success in poetry and design.
His recordings and televised performances made him a cult figure of almost mythical status, held as dear to the hearts of the Turkish people as Frank Sinatra in the U.S. and Europe. And, just like Sinatra, Müren’s recordings, issued over a 40-year span (1951-1991), are still heard today in all Turkish-speaking countries. Five wildly popular compilation albums have been released since his death, which resulted from a string of health complications and massive weight gain.
Yet after his death backstage immediately following a live television performance in Izmir, it was revealed that Müren had left all his money to an Army Fund for disadvantaged soldiers and a foundation for education. His death caused the greatest public grief in years, and many thousands of Turks attended his funeral. Zeki Müren is revered to this day, having his own museum in Bodrum; his extravagant grave in his native city of Bursa had to be fortified by a heavy iron grill to prevent well-wishers from taking all the soil as souvenirs.
To say that Muren's stage performances were novel and over-the-top extravagant is understatement. Müren was one of the first artists to use a catwalk stage in order to mingle with his audiences. Zeki was particularly popular with conservative housewives, who flocked to his sold out afternoon shows fashioned particularly for the entertainment of women. In fact, it was this dialogue with his fans, his manner of interacting and his flawless diction and pronunciation of the Turkish language that best explains his wide appeal. Through his recordings, "good Turkish" was brought to the masses, providing them with a free linguistic education alongside their musical entertainment.