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The legendary playback singer and composer-actor-producer, SP Balasubrahmanyam has passed in a Chennai hospital on 25th September 2020, after a spirited fight from the COVID-19 disease. Although the artiste was performing well in the initial phase serious complications developed afterwards and he was put on the ventilator and ECMO (Extra-corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) support. His condition became extremely crucial in the previous two days, and eventually the audio legend had to contribute in. He was 74.Born to a Telugu household in Tamil Nadu in 1946 and raised mostly in Andhra Pradesh, SP Balasubrahmanyam, better known as’SPB’ or’Balu’, revealed his lively interest in music from an early age, and over the years started singing in various regional competitions winning prizes all of the time. He made his debut as a playback singer for a Telugu film in 1966 in which the music score was done by his music mentor SP Kodandopani. Within days he left his Kannada playback singing introduction and forayed to the Tamil films in 1969, and then to the Malayalam film industry in the same calendar year. SPB’s illustrious and spectacular musical journey started: his getting the voice of the legendary actors of Southern India like Gemini Ganesan, MG Ramchandran (MGR), NT Rama Rao (NTR), Shivaji Ganesan and to Kamal Hassan for whom he sang for Hindi movies also, Rajnikant then into the heroes of Bollywood, by Salman Khan into Shahrukh Khan.Balasubrahmanyam attained international fame by singing for the memorable Telugu movie Sankarabharanam in 1980, directed by K Vishwanath. Balu was never trained in classical music, particularly the Carnatic design; but he made history by adapting his singing aesthetics to match the character of a classical music protagonist from the movie. SPB won his first National Award as the best male playback singer in this movie. The very next year, that’s 1981, he took the Hindi film industry, Bollywood, by storm: singing lilting numbers for Kamal Hassan from the super-hit film’Ek Duuje Ke Liye’, a picture of a first Telugu film, for which he captured his second National Award as the top male playback singer in Hindi. And SPB became the very sought-after voice in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi language movies with music directors ranging from the mythical Ilaiyaraaja, S Janaki, KV Mahadevan into AR Rahman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, RD Burman, Ram-Laxman, Anand-Milind and others.In a career of more than five decades SPB staged 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages. He’d won 6 National Awards for his playback in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi; won 6 Filmfare awards for southern zone; he was conferred Padma Shri at 2001 and Padma Bhushan at 2011; he was honoured with the’Indian Film Character of the Year’ at 2016; and many other state awards from his four southern states. To get a character of his stature the list of domestic awards appeared to be lesser in amounts which is largely because of how the’national’ Hindi film business or Bollywood enjoyed far greater reach, visibility, popularity and patronage across the country, and therefore, many legendary greats of southern India had to stay content mostly with state recognition.SP Balasubrahmanyam is perhaps the only Indian playback singer to have enjoyed five-decade long fame without a plateau with fan following across India and the world no matter the language barriers. His greatness was in his delightfully melodious yet manly voicehis immense art of unprocessed modulations, his intrinsic ability to play-act together with the essential emotions and his inborn talent to accommodate his singing style as suits the characters/heroes of films across five primary and many different languages, such as the mythical Mohammad Rafi did so inherently from the forties till his passing in 1980. Incidentally, Rafi was his model singer and a true genius during his career, enjoying the Hindi film-song pub always. Maybe, for this reason he thrived in Bollywood for more than other southern-region singers like Yesudas and Vani Jayram. Obviously, he also did have hiatus of approximately 15 years in Bollywood, coming back only in 2013 to sing for Shahrukh Khan from the super-hit film Chennai Express. On the other hand, the excellent artiste kept on singing-composing in southern languages until his last days.We salute the excellent musician and mourn his tragic demise, with the whole nation as condolence messages have been pouring in from film personalities, politicians, leaders, stalwarts in most of the specialist fields and his countless fans. Apart from his singing Balu has always been loved by all because of his simplicity, his lovable interactions with the public, his communication via the media and his bright jovial nature.

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