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.
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, Honda Cup and honored pioneer card member with Hong Leong Bank. He was known for his versatility and sang Malay, Indian and Chinese songs with outstanding choreography. He was even known to have sketched the portrait of a fan while singing.
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. A Malaysian English tabloid, The Star, 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".
In 1989, Sudirman won the title "Best Performer" at the Asia Music Award 1989 contest at the Royal Albert Hall, London. There, Leslie Cheung (Hong Kong), Anita Sarawak (Singapore), Epo (Japan), Kuh Ledesma (Philippines) and many other singers represented their respective countries. As Sudirman was known by many as "Malaysia's No 1 Entertainer", he was chosen to perform for Malaysia's SEA Games closing ceremony in 1989 and many others such as the opening ceremony of Sepak Takraw competition, Merdeka, New Year and other national functions. In most cases, he would use his own money to ensure a successful concert.
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. During his life, he had also adopted and brought up an Indian boy from a poor family and he would actively seek charity work through the PAPITA (Malaysian Singer Association).
Sudirman Arshad was named 'Malaysia's Singing Ambassador' by the Malaysia Tourism Development Board (MTDC). He was the voice behind the MTDC (Malaysian Tourism Development Corp) tune, To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia which was composed by American Emmy, Grammy and Oscar nominated singer and songwriter Carol Connors. He was referred to as the 'Singing Dynamite' by Singaporean journalists. His singing brought him standing ovations in Australia (in Sydney and Melbourne), Japan, Kuwait and the United States (Hawaii). Simon Napier-Bell, the manager for George Michael's band Wham!, referred to Sudirman Arshad as the 'institution of Malaysian music industry'.
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. He died at 4 a.m. 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. First, his remains were sent to his hometown in Temerloh, Pahang. Later, he was laid to rest at Chengal Muslim Cemetery, Temerloh, near the graves of his parents.
He is a legend singer for Indian people those days, he attracted all communities through his songs and singing. He sang Tamil songs for Indian communities and attracted people from young generation to oldest generation in our community. He known as a legend singer for all communities.