A golden voice of Indian cinema falls silent at 74

Renowned singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam dies after a nearly two-month stay in a Chennai hospital where he was taken after testing positive for Covid-19.

Legendary playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, 74, died on Friday at 1.04 pm at a private hospital in Chennai. He was admitted to MGM Healthcare, Chennai, in August after testing positive for Covid-19 but later was put on ventilator and ECMO as his health deteriorated.

 Popularly known as SPB, the playback singer has lent his voice to over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada. He was the voice of heroes spanning five decades and in fact, was also a talented actor. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001, the Padma Bhushan in 2011 and has won six National Awards.

 Born on 4 June, 1946, SPB entered playback singing thanks to his college friend who entered his name for a singing contest in 1963. He made his debut in playback singing with the Telugu movie Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna and the rest is history.

 The versatile singer worked with all the big stalwarts in the Telugu and Tamil film industries like MGR, K. Vishwanath, Sivaji Ganesan, Ilaiyaraaja and Ghantasala. But it was with Sankarabharanam, the 1980 film directed by K. Vishwanath, that SPB gained national recognition and won his first National Award. 

The singer made his debut into Bollywood with Ek Duje Ke Liye but it was lending his voice for Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kiya in 1989 that saw him take the Hindi playback music industry by storm. He sang for numerous Salman Khan films, along with those of other actors.

 If SPB had a golden era, it would be the 1980s when he was recording about 17- 18 songs a day. He and Ilaiyaraaja formed a great relationship and the music they created was soulful, melodious and evergreen. When Rajinikanth became the superstar of Tamil cinema, it became a tradition for SPB to sing the entry song for him. Today, there are innumerable films that stand out solely because of his singing. 

SPB was also known for his warm personality. The singer, actor, producer and music director is survived by his wife, son Charan and daughter Pallavi.