Legendary singer S P Balasubrahmanyam dies after fighting COVID-19

Celebrated playback singer S P Balasubrahmanyam, who held sway over millions of fans with his golden voice rendering a record 40,000 plus songs over five decades, died on Friday at a hospital here, plunging music lovers in grief.
After waging 52 days of grim battle for life following COVID-19 infection, the 74-year old singer suffered a cardio- respiratory arrest and the end came in the afternoon, a day after his condition turned extremely critical, a statement from MGM Healthcare, where he was treated, said.
“With profound grief, we regret to inform that he passed away at 13.04 hours,” it said. However, the hospital said Balasubrahmanyam, popularly known as SPB, had tested negative for COVID-19 on September 4.
Though at the time of admission, the popular singer himself had said in a video message that the infection was “very mild” and he would return home in two days, his health deteriorated later and was put on life support measures – ventilator and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support. Condolences poured in from the who’s who of the nation with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the film world paying rich tributes to the departed singer.
SPB, who strode like a colossus in the film and stage music world with numerous hits in 16 languages, more dominantly in South Indian films — especially Tamil and his mother tongue Telugu, is survived by wife, a son and a daughter.
A six-time national award winner, Balasubrahmanyam, honoured with Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2011 has sung over 40,000 songs in films and albums in 16 languages. A recipient of a slew of other honours and awards, SPB was influenced by veteran singer Mohammed Rafi and had worked with generations of music composers.
SPB’s Pehla Pehla Pyar, Wah Wah Ramji (Salman Khan- starrer Hum Aapke Hain Koun), Dekha Hai Pehli Baar (Saajan) were among his memorable Hindi songs. Born as Sripati Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam at Nellore in coastal Andhra Pradesh on June 4, 1946, SPB wanted to become an engineer and film career was never in his mind. After his debut in 1966 with Telugu and Kannada songs, composed by S P Kothandapani, whom SPB regarded as his guru, giving him the opportunity. The evergreen song ”Ayiram Nilave Vaa” (come thousand moons) from MGR starrer Tamil flick ”Adimaipen” catapulted him to fame in 1969 and there was no looking back since then for SPB, also fondly called “Balu” by his friends such as music maestro Illayaraja.
He carved out a niche for himself after entering the field when the then veterans like T M Soundararajan (TMS) and P B Srinivas were ruling the roost. SPB went on to sing under music directors spanning generations from M S Viswanathan, Ilayaraja, A R Rahman and Deva and pairing female artists like P Suseela, S Janaki, Vaani Jayaram and Chitra, among others. The singer also dabbled in acting and dubbing and he could whistle, mimic any sound or voice and had the uncanny ability to seamlessly blend stammer, laughter, cough or give a voice form to any emotion in songs. Though accolades kept pouring his way as his stature rose, he continued to be humble and became more spiritual. Early this year, SPB had gifted his house at Nellore in Andhra Pradesh to Kanchi Sankara Math for housing a Veda patashala. As the news of his death broke, his fans thronged the hospital and later his Nungambakkam residence, where the body was brought, teemed with well wishers for paying last respects as police had a tough time in controlling the emotionally charged crowd.
Home Minister Amit Shah, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Kerala Governor, Arif Mohammed Khan, a number of Chief Ministers, including K Palaniswami (TN) Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana) and B S Yediyurappa (Karnataka), DMK president M K Stalin were among those who condoled the death of SPB. Prominent names from Indian film industry such as veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, music composers Ilayaraja and AR Rahman, actors Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Anil Kapoor and Ramaya Krishnan and filmmaker Bharathiraja paid tributes to the legendary singer and remembered his contribution in the field of music.
Rajinikanth and Haasan both recalled that SPB symolised them through his voice and Rahman used a single word “devastated” to describe what he felt. Social media was flooded with SPB”s unforgettable Tamil song clips like “Sangeethga megam…indha degam maraindhalum” which meant “even if this body disappears, I would rise again in the form of music.” Kovind said: “In the passing of music legend SP Balasubrahmanyam Indian music has lost one of its most melodious voices.”
Modi said the unfortunate demise of the singer has left “our cultural world” a lot poorer. Shah said he would forever remain in “our memories through his melodious voice. Palaniswami hailed SPB as a God sent gift to Indian music world and his welcome song welcoming for late AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa “Thanga Tharagaye Varuga Varuga” would forever be a part of the party”s history. SPB earned the goodwill of AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran so much so that the iconic leader waited for him to sing his ”Aayiram Nilave Va,” song, the Chief Minister recalled. His devotional renditions including ”Kanda Sashti Kavacham” (praising Lord Muruga) and “Aayapadi Maligayil” (on Lord Krishna) won him the love of devotees, he said.
He brought laurels to Tamil Nadu and to the Tamil film world through his unparalleled singing prowess, he said. DMK president M K Stalin said crores of SPB”s fans, including him, considered it a personal loss in their own families. SPB would forever live through his songs and in a hectic world, his songs were a great medicine and a stress buster, he said. Earlier, announcing the death of SPB, his son and filmmaker S P Charan told reporters that his father”s songs would live forever in the hearts of his fans.