Legendary SP Balasubrahmanyam dies aged 74
Legendary playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, who blurred boundaries of language by recording 40,000 songs in 16 languages in a career spanning five decades, died in a Chennai hospital on Friday. He was 74. The singer was admitted to hospital last month after he contracted Covid-19, tested negative on September 4 but suffered a cardio- respiratory arrest on Friday. He died at 1.04 pm, announced his son SP Charan.
“SPB belongs to everyone. He will live on in his songs,” Charan added.
Born Sripati Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam at Nellore in coastal Andhra Pradesh on June 4, 1946, SPB (as he was popularly known) wanted to become an engineer but dropped out to pursue his dream.
He made his professional debut in 1966 in a Telugu film. Accolades quickly followed, bringing him six national awards for songs performed in four languages -- Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.
His 54-year-long career included stints as a musician, composer, producer and voice-over artist, even actor but it was his distinctly melodious voice that won him millions of fans across India.
“Where did you go Balu? I asked you to get up and come. You didn’t listen to me. Have you gone to sing for angels? For me world is empty now,” music maestro Illaiyaraja said. SPB and Illaiyaraja, one of India’s best music composers, were bandmates in the 1970s in a Chennai band.
The singer will be cremated at 11 am on Saturday with state honours at his farm house in Red Hills on the outskirts of Chennai. The Tamil Nadu government said a memorial will be erected for the singer.
In Chennai, a pall of gloom descended as news of his death spread. Fans crowded the hospital and people were seen crying on the streets humming “Paadun Nila“ (singing moon) as he was known as after one of his hit songs in Tamil.
He won the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Bhushan, the nation’s third-highest civilian award, in 2011.
For legions of fans, SPB was the voice of actor Kamal Haasan, not only dubbing for his films in Telugu but singing songs for him, most notably in the 1981 blockbuster “Ek Duje Ke Liye”.
“Like everyone else, he has been a part of my romance, melancholy, part of my happiness, first love and marriage as well,” Haasan said, referring to SPB as his brother.
In Bollywood, he was known as the voice of actor Salman Khan – a partnership that began with the 1989 hit Maine Pyar Kiya and peaked in the 1994 blockbuster Hum Aapke Hain Koun!
“Heartbroken to hear about #SPBalasubrahmanyam sir... you will forever live on in your undisputed legacy of music!” Khan tweeted.
The versatile performer collaborated with cinema’s top composers, including MS Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman, who said that he was “devastated” by the news.
He was also known for his generosity, with former chess world champion Viswanathan Anand paying tribute to him for being “my first sponsor” at a 1983 tournament. “Really sad to hear about the passing away of such a great yet simple person,” Anand tweeted.