The prolific singer, who has predominantly in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, as well as in Hindi showed a natural tendency towards music from an early age. S. P. Balasubrahmanyam was born in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh on June 4, 1946. His father, late S. P. Sambamurthy, was a Harikatha artist and perhaps SPB picked up the nuances from there.
He has the rare distinction of rendering the most songs on a single day by any singer. He has recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangalore from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on 8 February 1981 and 19 songs in Tamil, 16 songs in Hindi in a day which is a notable achievement and a record. He reportedly had absolutely no formal tuition in Carnatic music. But had such a good ear for that he was able to pick up on the subtleties without any hindrance. One should bear in mind that Vishwanath’s superhit Shankarabharanam secured a national award for Balasubrahmanyam – his first – in 1979. All the six songs in the film were classical.
SPB made his debut as a playback singer with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna (1966), a Telugu film scored by his mentor, S. P. Kodandapani. His first Kannada song was recorded in1966 for the film Nakkare Ade Swarga, starring Kannada comedy king T. R. Narasimharaju. Other early songs he sang were duets with P. Susheela, Iyarkai Ennum Ilaya Kanni in the 1969 Tamil film Shanti Nilayam, starring Gemini Ganesh, and Aayiram Nilavae Vaa for MGR in Adimaippenn (1969). He was introduced to the Malayalam film industry by G. Devarajan in the film Kadalppalam (1969), starring Prem Nazir. His first work in Hindi films was in Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), for which he received the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer. He has won 6 National Awards in all. His fame in Hindi cinema got cemented when he became Salman Khan’s voice in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). The album became a huge hit and SPB won the 1990 Filmfare Award for his efforts. Apart from this, he has bagged six other Filmfare trophies as well. He became the voice of Salman Khan after giving playback for the actor in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) and continued to sing for the actor in many films like Saajan (1991), Patthar Ke Phool (1991), Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), Andaz Apna Apna and many more.
SPB also tried his hand at acting and shone in films like Keladi Kanmani (1990), Thiruda Thiruda (1993), Kadhalan (1994), Ullaasam (1996) and many more. He became a well-known dubbing artiste as well providing voices for including Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Vishnuvardhan, Salman Khan, K. Bhagyaraj, Mohan, Anil Kapoor, Girish Karnad, Gemini Ganesan, Arjun Sarja, Nagesh, Karthik, and Raghuvaran in various languages. He also dubbed for Ben Kingsley in the Telugu-dubbed version of Gandhi. And he dabbled in music composition too.
SPB was admitted to the MGM Healthcare hospital in Chennai with mild Covid-19 symptoms on August 5. He was transferred to the ICU on August 13 and his situation was said to be critical. He has been connected to life support since then. He underwent plasma therapy and physiotherapy at a later stage when his condition seemed to be improving. He remained on a ventilator and ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) support. But while his condition remained critical, he was stable and responding to doctors.
Sadly, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam passed away at 1.04 p.m. in Chennai on Friday. He was 74.