Singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam Passes Away

The popular playback singer contracted COVID-19 in early August and was put on life support on September 24.

Chennai: Popular playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam died on Friday. He was admitted to a hospital after contracting COVID-19 more than a month ago. His health took a turn for the worse on Thursday and he was placed on life support at a hospital in Chennai.

The 74-year-old Balasubrahmanyam, popularly known as SPB and Balu, was admitted to the MGM Healthcare hospital on August 5. Over a career spanning five decades, he sang more than 40,000 songs in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi among other languages.

“His condition in the last 24 hours has deteriorated further warranting maximal life support and he is extremely critical,” a statement issued by MGM Healthcare said on Thursday.

Long fight with COVID-19

The singer was admitted to the hospital with mild COVID-19 symptoms, but his health deteriorated for the first time on August 13 and he was put on life support and moved to the Intensive Care Unit.

On August 19, he was put on ECMO besides ventilator and a day after, when he remained critical, people from all walks of life, including celebrities and the general public, came together to pray for his early recovery and his condition stabilised soon.

Towards the end of last month, he underwent passive physiotherapy and later “actively participated in physiotherapy” and he was fully awake and responsive during that phase.

A multi-disciplinary team, comprising specialists from internal medicine, pulmonology and infectious diseases among others, took care of him. Also, the team actively collaborated with international experts from reputed centres in the US and the UK that saw a slew of COVID-19 patients requiring ECMO support.

On September 3, the hospital had said that he was stable, conscious, responsive and continued to show clinical progress and days later it said his condition warranted an extended stay in the ICU requiring ECMO and ventilator support.

Legendary career

Born in Nellore to a Telugu family on June 4, 1946, Balasubrahmanyam developed an early interest towards music. According to The News Minute, he had no formal training in any kind of music:

“His entry into playback singing was an accident which played out both ways for him in the industry – people admired his pitch-perfect rendition but then he would also not remember the impulsive improvisations (Sangathis) if the composer told him to re-sing it the next time since he didn’t know to mark notations.”

Over the next several decades, he would record over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages. He holds the Guinness World Record for the highest number of songs by a singer. He also acted in various movies and dubbed for actors such as Kamal Haasan.

He received numerous honours, including the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, in 2011. Balasubrahmanyam is survived by his Savitri, daughter Pallavi and son Charan.

Tributes and condolences poured in for the legendary singer from many quarters.

(With PTI inputs)