Legendary singer S P Balasubrahmanyam, fondly known as SPB who died at a private hospital in Chennai on Friday leaves behind an unparalleled legacy of more than fourty thousand songs in 16 different languages. SPB’s golden voice has the ability to cut across the generations and hold them enthrall.

Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam was born in a Telugu Brahmin family in Nellore in Andhrapradesh on June 4, 1946. He debuted as a playback singer with the Telugu film Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna in 1966, with  music composed by S P Kodandapani.

‘Ye Divilo Virisina Parijathamo’ from Telugu film Kanne Vayasu which was released in 1973 brought him popularity. ‘Kanula Mundu Neevunte’ and ‘Charana Kinkinulu’ from Chelleli Kapuram (1971), ‘Ide Paata, Prati chota’ from Puttinillu Mettinillu (1973) and ‘Mallelu Poose, Vennela Kaase’ from Intinti Ramayanam (1979), Krushi Vunte Manushulu Rushulautaru’ from Adavi Ramudu (1977) and ‘Vandanam Abhivandanam’ from Premabhishekam ( 1981) were a few of best he had sung in Telugu. SPB got his first national award for best playback singer in 1980, for the song ‘Shankaraa..’ from Shankarabharanam movie directed by K Viswanathan. K V Mahadevan was the music director.

  As a versatile singer, languages were no barriers for SPB. SPB-Ilayaraja-S Janaki trio considered to be highly successful in Tamil film industry throughout 1980s. SPB and Ilaiya Raja won national award for Sagara Sangamam movie in 1983 and both won national award again in 1988 for the songs of the movie Rudraveena. In 1990s he worked with composers Vidyasagar, Keeravani and others. But, his combination with A R Rahman became major success. SPB sang three songs for the movie Roja, which was debut movie of A R Rahman. Thanga Thamarai song from Minsara Kanavu fetched him the sixth national award.

SPB also sung for Hindi movies in 90’s. Notable among them was Hum Aapke Hain Koun. The song Didi Tera from the movie was very popular. SPB also sang over hundred songs in Malayalam language.  Ee Kadalum Marukadalum written by Vayalar Ramavarma, from the movie Kadalpalam (1969), Swarna Meeninte Chelotha from the movie Sarppam (1979), Manje Vaa Madhuvidhu Vela from the movie Thusharam (1981), Tharapatham Chethoharam from the movie Anaswaram (1991), Palnilavile from Butterflies were some of them. SPB played character roles in more than 40 Tamil, Telugu and Kannada movies. As a dubbing artist he gave voice to many senior artists such as Kamalhasan, Rajnikanth etc.

   It was around 1 pm on Friday that MGM Hospital authorities officially confirmed the death of SPB.

   74 year old SPB  had been undergoing treatment at the hospital since August 5 after he showed mild symptoms of Covid-19.  The same day, the singer posted a video on his social media page. “Last two to three days, I have been having a little discomfort. Discomfort means little chest congestion, which for a singer is nonsense,” SPB said in his video message. “I am perfectly alright except the cold and fever. Fever has also subsided. In two days, I will be discharged, and I will be home. Lot of people have been calling me. I couldn’t attend all the calls. I have come here mostly to take rest, so there won’t be any disturbance to me, and to take medication. Don’t bother calling me. I am fine. I will be fine,” he said in the video message to his fans.

 On August 13, he was moved to the intensive care unit and was put on life support. His condition remained critical for some days. On September 19, his son said his father’s condition was improving although he was still on life support.  On September 24, the hospital authoriteis have informed through bulletin that Balasubrahmanyam was “extremely critical” as he suffered a brain haemorrhage. Despite maximum life support measures  his condition deteriorated further, and he suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest on Friday.

  The body was brought to SPB’s home at Kodambakkam around 4pm. The last rites will take place at his farmhouse in Tamaraipakkam in Tiruvallur district on Saturday

  Balasubrahmanyam is survived by his wife Savithri , daughter Pallavi and Son Charan.