PM Modi, political leaders, dignitaries, film industry personalities, and entire India today mourns the death of the legendary playback singer and Padma Shri award-winner SP Balasubrahmanyam. A renowned singer he held a Guinness World Record for more than 40,000 songs. This afternoon on September 25, 2020, SP Balasubrahmanyam passed away in MGM Healthcare Hospital, Chennai after a brave fight with the coronavirus. His mortal remains will be taken to his farmhouse on the outskirts of Chennai tonight, and he will be laid to rest there post 10:30 am tomorrow. He is survived by his wife Savithri and two children, daughter Pallavi, and son S. P. B. Charan, who is a playback singer and film producer.
From Engineer to Singer
Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam born on June 4, 1946, fondly called Balu or SPB was a well-known Indian playback singer, musician, music director, dubbing artist, film producer, and actor who worked in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam films.
He grew up in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh in a Telegu family with his two brothers and five sisters. His father late S. P. Sambamurthy was a Harikatha artist (devotional singer) and mother late Sakunthalamma, a homemaker.
Though a lover of music since early childhood, he took admission at JNTU College of Engineering, Anantapur to become an engineer. But destiny had other plans. While still studying in 1964, he won the first prize in a music competition for amateur singers organized by the Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation where he was spotted by local film music composers.
In 1966, Balasubrahmanyam made his debut as a playback singer with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, for a Telugu film scored by his mentor, S. P. Kodandapani. In 1969, he got a breakthrough when he sang for the Tamil superstar MG Ramachandran in the film Adimal Penn. That changed his life forever and since then there was no looking back.
The 1970s, 80s, and 90s
While working in the south film industry, Balasubrahmanyam’s popularity rose. On some days he would hop from one studio to another to record three songs in a day.
By the turn of the century, he became the highest-paid singer in the South Indian film industry. From romantic hits to peppy dance numbers, he recorded songs in 16 different languages. He also worked for top composers like AR Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja.
His Bollywood breakthrough came in 1981 when he sang for Ek Duje Ke Liye, both a runaway love story and a runaway success story. In the same year, SPB also created a record by recording 21 new Kannada songs in just one single day for composer Upendra Kumar.
In 1992, SPB recorded more hits for the movie Roja while working with none other than India’s No.1 composer AR Rahman. He was also best known in Bollywood for being Salman Khan’s voice in the 90s.
SP Balasubrahmanyam is the recipient of India’s most prestigious civilian awards,
- Padma Shri (2001)
- Padma Bhushan (2011)
His other notable awards include:
- 2016, Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year
- 2011, Best Playback Singer – Male, Aptharakshaka
- 2008, Best Playback Singer – Male, Mozhi
- 2007, Best Playback Singer – Male, Sri Ramadasu
- 1990, Best Playback Singer – Male, Maine Pyar Kiya
- 1987, Outstanding Achievement as a Playback Singer
- 1984, Lifetime Achievement Award
- 1997, Best Male Playback Singer, Minsara Kanavu
- 1995, Best Male Playback Singer, Sangeetha Sagara Ganayogi Panchakshara Gavai
- 1989, Best Male Playback Singer, Rudraveena
- 1984, Best Male Playback Singer, Sagara Sangamam
- 1982, Best Male Playback Singer, Ek Duuje Ke Liye
- 1980, Best Male Playback Singer, Sankarabharanam
- 1990, Creative Award Best Male Playback Singer, Keladi Kanmani
- 1997, Best Supporting Actor, Pavitra Bandham
A lasting remembrance
In May 2020, SPB sang a song titled “Bharath Bhoomi” to create awareness about the deadly coronavirus. Composed by Ilaiyaraaja, it was a tribute to those persons in the frontline including doctors, nurses, medical staff, police, army, teachers, sanitation workers, and other emergency service workers, who worked tirelessly amid the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown. The video song was officially unveiled by Ilaiyaraaja through his YouTube account on May 30, 2020, in both Tamil and Hindi languages.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a few minutes earlier “With the unfortunate demise of Shri SP Balasubrahmanyam, our cultural world is a lot poorer. A household name across India, his melodious voice and music enthralled audiences for decades. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with his family and admirers. Om Shanti”. This feeling of loss is shared by SPB’s millions of fans in India and around the world.