SP Balasubrahmanyam passes away: It is the end of an era
SP Balasubrahmanyam’s death has left his millions of fans across the globe grief-stricken. The man, fondly called ‘Paadum Nila’ (the Singing Moon) lent his voice to generations of actors spanning industries.Updated: Sep 25, 2020, 14:21 IST
SP Balasubrahmanyam’s death if the end of an era in film music. His songs voiced the aspirations and emotions of generations of music lovers as he sang for actors ranging from MGR, Rajinikanth, Shivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan and Salman Khan.
He died at the age of 74 at a Chennai hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus in August. As his son, SP Charan, confirmed the news of his death, said, “SPB belongs to everyone”.
Without any formal training in music, SP Balasubrahmanyam emerged as one of the most versatile singers of the country. The singer’s remarkable journey spanning over five decades and multiple film industries is nothing less than the script of an interesting film. He recorded over 40,000 songs in his career. Winner of multiple National Awards, he has also been honoured with Padma Bhushan and Padmashri.
Veteran musicologist and critic VAK Ranga Rao had once said, “S P Balasubrahmanyam is a phenomenon. He has a fine voice which always sings true. He has a deep awareness, a basic feel for aesthetics of film music. Adding to all this is a raging enthusiasm; a respect for the art, which is his profession. And an open mind.” It was this enthusiasm which was to become his hallmark.
Born into a Telugu Brahmin family in 1946 in Nellore, Sripathi Panditharadhyula Balasubrahmanyam was interested in music from a young age. His father was a ‘Harikatha’ singer and had also acted in plays. A self-taught singer, Balasubrahmanyam learnt music on his own.
Even though he enrolled into Engineering at JNTU College, Anantapur, he dropped out midway as he fell ill. While pursuing his passion for music, he joined as an Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers.
Even before making his playback singing debut, SPB joined hands with legendary composer Ilayaraja and his brother Gangai Amaran to start a music troupe. He was the lead singer of the band.
Composer SP Kodandapani spotted Balasubrahmanyam’s remarkable voice at a singing competition. Kodandapani went on to give SPB his first singing break in 1966 in the Telugu film Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna.
A week after he recorded his first Telugu song, SPB got an opportunity to record his maiden Kannada song for the film Nakkare Ade Swarga. His first Tamil song was for the film Hotel Ramba, which never got released. Balasubrahmanyam soon found work and fame in the Telugu film industry and did 30 films in the first three years alone.
He made the leap to the Tamil film industry with composer MS Viswanathan introducing him in 1969. His first Tamil song was for the film Shanti Nilayam. In the same year, he sang for former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran in the film Adimai Penn. The song Aayiram Nilave Vaa was a runaway hit.
Although he predominantly sang in Telugu and Tamil languages, he has several Hindi chartbusters to his credit. From Ek Duuje Ke Liye to Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun among others, he has been associated with quite a few Hindi films over the years. Tere Mere Beech Mein, Aaja Shaam Hone Aayee and Tumse Milne Ke are just a few of his Hindi chartbusters.
With over 50,000 songs across many Indian languages and numerous prestigious honours, including Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan to his credit, Balasubrahmanyam is one of the few singers to have sung for all the leading stars of southern industries over the last five decades.
For the longest time, there was a tradition of having SPB sing the opening track in a Rajinikanth’s film.
Balasubrahmanyam was also a popular voice-over artist and had dubbed for Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth when their films were dubbed into Telugu.
Some of his award-winning songs are from films such as Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Sankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam, Swati Mutyam, Maine Pyar Kiya, Duet, Minsara Kanavu and Roja among many more.
SPB’s last recorded song is believed to be for the upcoming Tamil film Tamizharasan, starring Vijay Antony. Earlier this year, he had crooned the opening song in Rajinikanth’s Darbar.
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