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.
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. He made his debut in 1966 with Telugu and Kannada songs, with S P Kothandapani, whom SPB regarded as his guru, giving him the opportunity.