Legendary singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, who had been undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Chennai after testing positive for COVID-19 during the first week of August, passed away today after a long battle with the coronavirus.
On August 5, SPB, as he was fondly called, announced through a video recording, which he posted on his Facebook page, that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and had gotten admitted in a hospital. He had then remarked that he was getting admitted mostly “to take rest”. “I am in good health. Nobody has to worry about this one, so please don’t bother to call me to find out how I am,” he had said in the video, and added, “I am having a little discomfort, some congestion in the chest, which, for a singer, is nonsense. And fever on and off. Otherwise, I don’t have any problem. But I don’t want to take it easy so I came to the hospital to get checked.”
While his health had deteriorated during the second week in hospital, he was gradually making progress, with his son, SP Charan diligently updating on his health status. In fact, Charan’s last update, on September 22, said he was making steady progress even though he was on Ecmo/ventilator, and was eager to leave the hospital.
Unfortunately, the acclaimed singer’s health deteriorated in the last 24 hours and he passed away a few minutes ago, today.
SPB, who 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 Ilayakanni from Shanti Nilayam (which he had recorded even before Adimai Penn) 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 Ilaiyaraaja 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.
He also was an admired character actor, earning praise for his effortless performances in films like Manathil Uruthi Vendum, Thiruda Thiruda, Kadhalan, Minsara Kanavu, and Moone Moonu Varthai. He also played the leads in films like Keladi Kanmani and Sigaram. He was also a voice actor, dubbing for superstars like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Mohanlal in Telugu, and for Anil Kapoor and Balakrishna in Tamil.
The veteran singer has recorded over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages and holds the Guinness World Record for recording the highest number of songs by a singer. He has won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer six times, the Filmfare Award seven times for his work across many industries, the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards four times, the Government of Andhra Pradesh’s Nandi Awards 25 times, and the Karnataka State Film Awards three times. He was also a recipient of the Padma Bhushan (2011) and Padmashri (2001) from the Government of India.
He is survived by his wife Savithri and two children — daughter Pallavi and son SP Charan.