COVID -19 is unfortunately taking away many beautiful and talented people away from us. Legendary Indian musician Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam, SPB or Bala as he was popularly called succumbed to the virus last week.
The gifted singer, music director got admitted at a private hospital in Chennai on 5 August 2020, after testing positive for corona virus. He did recover from the virus but unfortunately lost his battle on 25 September 2020 due to complications.
The talented musician held the Guiness World Record for recording the 40,000 songs, the highest number of songs by a singer (the record for a female singer is held by Lata Mangeshkar).
He was a recipient of the Padma Shri (2001) and Padma Bhushan (2011) from the Government of India. Saathiya Tune Kya Kiya, Bahut Pyar Karte Hai-Mal, Diwani Diwani, Tumse Milne Ki Tamanna Hai, Phoolon Jaise Pyari Pyari and Kehni Hai Ek Baat. He was one of the musicians from the South who could also carve a niche in the Hindi Bollywood industry.
Balasubrahmanyam’s Life and Times
Born into an orthodox Telugu Brahmin family in Konetammapeta near Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, S P Balasubrahmanyam was the second son in a family of three sons and five daughters. His father S P Sambamurthy was a well-known exponent of Harikatha.
SPB took to singing as a hobby developed an interest in music very early in his life. He studied notations and learnt to play instruments such as harmonium and flute on his own while listening to his father. His father wanted him to become an engineer; this brought him to Ananthpur, where he enrolled for the Engineering course and later, he discontinued the course due to typhoid and then joined AMIE. S P B also pursued his hobby and won awards at many singing competitions.
There, he was identified as a good singer in annual college programmes. In the early 60s a Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation, organized a music competition for amateur singers. This proved to be a turning point in his life and S P B won the first prize. Later, music director S P Kodandapani took him under his wing and the rest is history.
SPB made his debut as a playback singer in December 15, 1966. He sung more than 40,000 songs since then in more than 5 different Indian languages, including Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam.
SPB is highly regarded for his incredible vocal range, deep rich voice, and mastery of style, technique and control. Sung many popular songs in Hindi cinema he virtually monopolised playback singing for more than 30 years in the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil cinema industries while his contemporary K J Yesudas monopolized the Malayalam music industry.
He made his singing debut in 1966 with the Telugu film Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, was the most prolific singer the country has ever seen.
Though he recorded his first Tamil song for MS Viswanathan for the unreleased film Hotel Ramba, his Tamil breakthrough came in 1969, in the form of Aayiram Nilave vaa, composed by KV Mahadevan for MGR’s Adimai Penn. Iyarkkai Ennum IIayakanni from Shanti Nilayam released in the same year, and there was no looking back for the young singer.
He soon became the sought-after singer across industries. His association with MSV and maestro IIaiyaraaja cemented his status as a legend even in the 1980s. In 1981, he recorded 21 songs on a single day, a record that hasn’t been broken yet (and might not be ever), which is a testament to his prolific singing career.
Has recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangalore from 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. on February 8, 1981, which is a record.
Has recorded 19 songs in Tamil in a day, and 16 songs in Hindi in a day, which is a notable achievement.
A popular anchor for various various television shows, SPB has also acted in several movies in full-fledged protagonist roles or in cameo roles.