A great legend, gone!

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam

- Senthilkumar.P

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It is quite befitting to pay tribute to a man who not only enthralled people with his effervescent voice but his extremely humane nature!

A loss so great but a legacy left behind for us all to cherish! His voice is immortal and we will continue to see you through that!

Wherever you are now, you have lived a great life here on earth. So continue your journey, in doing what you loved doing. I was amazed at his humility, respecting all, disregarding their age, creed, status..

Such icons are seldom made and I am truly grateful to have been around when he was here.

A great legend, gone!

Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam (4 June 1946 – 25 September 2020), also referred to as S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. P. B., or Balu, was an Indian musician, playback singer, music director, actor, dubbing artist, and film producer who worked predominantly in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, and Malayalam films. He sang over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages and holds the Guinness record for most number of songs sung in cinema by any person (40,000) in 16 languages. He has the rare distinction of rendering the most songs in a single day by any singer. He recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bengaluru from 9 am to 9 pm on 8 February 1981. Furthermore, he also recorded 19 songs in Tamil and 16 songs in Hindi in a day, which is a notable achievement and a record.

He won six National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer for his works in four different languages; Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Hindi; 25 Andhra Pradesh state Nandi Awards for his work in Telugu cinema, and numerous other state awards from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In addition, he won the Filmfare Award, and six Filmfare Awards South. According to some sources, he held the Guinness World Record for recording the highest number of songs by a singer with over 40,000 songs. In 2012, he received the state NTR National Award for his contributions to Indian cinema. In 2016, he was honoured with the Silver Peacock Medal as Indian Film Personality of the Year. He was a recipient of the Padma Shri (2001) and Padma Bhushan (2011) from the Government of India.

S. P. Balasubrahmanyam was born in Nellore, Madras Presidency (present-day Andhra Pradesh) into a Telugu Brahmin family. His father, S. P. Sambamurthy, was a Harikatha artist who also acted in plays. His mother was Sakunthalamma, who died on 4 February 2019. He had two brothers and five sisters, including singer S. P. Sailaja. His son S. P. Charan is also a popular South Indian singer,actor, and producer.

Balasubrahmanyam developed an interest in music at an early age, studied musical notations, and learned music. He enrolled at the JNTU College of Engineering Anantapurwith the intention of becoming an engineer. He discontinued his studies early due to typhoidand joined as an associate member the Institution of Engineers, Chennai.

He continued to pursue music during his engineering studies and won awards at singing competitions. In 1964, he won the first prize in a music competition for amateur singers organized by the Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organization. He was the leader of a light music troupe composed of Anirutta (on the harmonium), Ilaiyaraaja (on guitar and later on harmonium), Baskar (on percussion), and Gangai Amaran (on guitar). He was selected as the best singer in a singing competition which was judged by S. P. Kodandapani and Ghantasala. Often visiting music composers seeking opportunities, his first audition song was "Nilave Ennidam Nerungadhe". It was rendered by veteran playback singer P. B. Srinivas, who used to write and give him multi-lingual verses in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, English and Urdu.

1960s–1970s

Balasubrahmanyam made his debut as a playback singer on 15 December 1966 with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, a Telugu film scored by his mentor, S. P. Kodandapani. The first non-Telugu song that he recorded just eight days after his debut Telugu song was in Kannada in 1966 for the film Nakkare Ade Swarga, starring Kannada comedy stalwart T. R. Narasimharaju. He recorded his first Tamil song "Athaanodu Ippadi Irundhu Eththanai Naalaachu", a duet with L. R. Eswari under the musical direction of M. S. Viswanathan for the film Hotel Ramba, which was never released. Other early songs he sang were duets with P. Susheela, "Iyarkai Ennum Ilaya Kanni" in the 1969 film Shanti Nilayam, starring Gemini Ganesh, and "Aayiram Nilavae Vaa" for M. G. Ramachandran in Adimaippenn. His first song with S. Janaki was "Pournami Nilavil Pani Vizhum Iravil" in Kannippenn. He was then introduced to the Malayalam film industry by G. Devarajan in the film Kadalppalam.

He had the distinction of rendering the most songs on a single day by any singer.[49] He had recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangalore from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on 8 February 1981 and 19 songs in Tamil, 16 songs in Hindi in a day. In his words, "There were days when I used to record 15–20 songs, but only for Anand-Milind. And I would take the last flight back to Chennai. In the 1970s, he also worked with M. S. Viswanathan in Tamil movies for actors such as M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan. He recorded duets with P. Susheela, S. Janaki, Vani Jayaramand L. R. Eswari. Balasubrahmanyam's association with Ilaiyaraaja began even before Ilaiyaraaja came to the cine field. In the early days, he used to sing in towns and villages all over south India and Ilaiyaraaja, then an unknown harmonium and guitar player accompanied him in his concerts.

1980s

Balasubrahmanyam came to international prominence with the 1980 film Sankarabharanam. The film is considered to be one of the best films ever to emerge from the Telugu film industry. Directed by K. Vishwanath, the film's soundtrack was composed by K.V. Mahadevan, and led to an increase in the usage of Carnatic music in Telugu cinema. Not a classically trained singer, he used a "film music" aesthetic in recording the songs. Balasubrahmanyam received his first National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for his work. His first work in Hindi films was in the following year, in Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), for which he received another National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer.

Balasubrahmanyam began to record more songs in Tamil, especially for Ilaiyaraaja with S.Janaki, the trio considered to be highly successful in the Tamil film industry from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. The songs were based on classical music, such as in Saagara Sangamam (1983), for which both Ilaiayaraaja and S.P.B won National Film Awards, Swathi Muthyam (1986) and Rudraveena (1988) which again won National Awards for Ilaiyaraaja and Balasubrahmanyam.

In 1989, Balasubrahmanyam was the playback singer for actor Salman Khan in the blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya.[56] The soundtrack for the film was very successful and he won a Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song Dil Deewana. For much of the next decade, Balasubrahmanyam continued as the "romantic singing voice" on the soundtracks of Khan's films. Notable among these was Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!which became the highest-grossing Hindi film of all time. Balasubrahmanyam's duet with Lata Mangeshkar, "Didi Tera Devar Deewana", was very popular. This solidified Balasubrahmanyam as one of the biggest playback singers in India. SP Balasubrahmanyam became identified as Salman Khan's voice in the 90s just like Kishore Kumar became Rajesh Khanna’s voice through the 70s.

1990s

In the 1990s, he worked with composers such as Vidyasagar, M. M. Keeravani, S. A. Rajkumarand Deva among others, but his association with A.R.Rahman turned out be a major success.

Balasubrahmanyam recorded three songs for A. R. Rahman in his debut film Roja. He had a long time association with Rahman right from Roja, the latter's debut film. Other popular songs include "July Maadham" from Pudhiya Mugam, which also marked the debut of singer Anupama, "Mannoothu Manthayilae" from Kizhakku Cheemayile which was a folk number and he almost sang all songs in the musical love story Duet and "Thanga Thaamarai" from Minsara Kanavu which fetched him, the sixth and latest of his National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer to date.

Balasubrahmanyam's association with Hamsalekha began after the latter's successful venture Premaloka in Kannada. Balasubrahmanyam sang the most songs for Hamsalekha in Kannada. He received his fourth National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song "Umandu Ghumandu" from the Kannada film Ganayogi Panchakshari Gavayi (1995), which was a Hindustani classical music-based composition by Hamsalekha.

2000-2020

In 2013, Balasubrahmanyam recorded the title song for Chennai Express – "Chennai Express", singing for the lead actor Shahrukh Khan, under the music direction of Vishal-Shekhar, breaking his 15-year hiatus from Hindi cinemamusic.

In May 2020, SPB crooned a song on humanity titled "Bharath Bhoomi" which was composed by Ilaiyaraaja as a tribute to the people such as police, army, doctors, nurses and janitors who have been significantly working amid COVID-19 pandemic. The video song was officially unveiled by Ilaiyaraaja through his official YouTube account on 30 May 2020 in both Tamil and Hindi languages.

Voice acting

Balasubrahmanyam accidentally became a dubbing artist with K. Balachander's film Manmadha Leela, the dubbed Telugu version of Manmadha Leelai, providing voice-over for Kamal Haasan. He has also provided voice-overs for various artists, including Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Vishnuvardhan, Salman Khan, K. Bhagyaraj, Mohan, Anil Kapoor, Girish Karnad, Gemini Ganesan, Arjun Sarja, Nagesh, Karthik, and Raghuvaran in various languages. He was assigned as the default dubbing artist for Kamal Haasan in Telugu-dubbed versions of Tamil films. For the Telugu version of Dasavathaaram, he gave voice to seven characters (including the female character) out of ten characters played by Kamal Haasan. He was awarded the Nandi Award for Best Male Dubbing Artist for the films Annamayya and Sri Sai Mahima. He dubbed for Nandamuri Balakrishna for the Tamil version of the movie Sri Rama Rajyam in 2012. He also dubbed for Ben Kingsley in the Telugu-dubbed version of Gandhi.

Balasubrahmanyam was married to Savithri and had two children, a daughter Pallavi, and a son S. P. B. Charan, also a playback singer and film producer. Balasubrahmanyam's mother Sakunthalamma died at the age of 89 on 4 February 2019 in Nellore.

On 5 August 2020, Balasubrahmanyam tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to MGM Healthcare in Chennai. Subsequently, his health deteriorated and he was shifted to the intensive care unit in a critical state. He required a ventilator and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support. His son Charan provided periodic updates over social media, while members of the Tamil film industry engaged in a mass prayer via Zoom on 20 August and candlelight vigils were held by fans outside the hospital. On 7 September 2020, Balasubrahmanyam tested negative for the coronavirus, although he remained using a ventilator and ECMO. He started showing signs of recovery, including light speech and physical activities. However, the hospital released a statement on 24 September stating that he became "extremely critical" and was on "maximal life support". He died on 25 September 2020 at 1:04 pm (IST) of cardio-pulomary arrest after over a month-long hospitalisation. On 25 September 2020, he died in Chennaifrom post COVID-19 complications.

Legendary singer SP Balasubrahmanyam was buried at his farmhouse in Thamaraipakkam village of Thiruvallur district. He was laid to rest with state honours, as announced by Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy.

Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, who died on Friday after being hospitalized for over a month, has been to rest with state honours at his farmhouse in Chennai. He got a 24-gun salute by Tamil Nadu police.

After the singer’s son S P Charan performed the funeral rites amid Vedic chants by priests, 24 police personnel gave a gun salute and later the body was lowered into a deep pit and buried. With policemen marching along, the body was brought on a bier to the designated burial spot from an enclosure earmarked for people to pay homage and perform rituals.

SPB suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest at MGM Healthcare hospital on Friday. His son SP Charan told media that he died at 1.04 PM. Security arrangements have also been made outside the farmhouse in Thamaraipakkam village of Thiruvallur district.

 

 

   

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