World renowned Bollywood singer SP Balasubrahmanyam has died in hospital of coronavirus

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The famous Indian singer SP Balasubrahmanyam who is a Guinness World Record holder for his more than 40,000 songs has died of coronavirus.

The singer recorded for more than 50 years with a catalogue ranging from romantic numbers to dance tracks.

SP Balasubrahmanyam, 74, also sang some of Indian cinema’s best-known numbers, spanning 16 languages.

Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, right,at the Padma Awards ceremony in 2011 with Indian President Pradibha Singh Patil

Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, right,at the Padma Awards ceremony in 2011 with Indian President Pradibha Singh Patil

He died today after spending days in intensive care following a covid-19 diagnosis and tributes have been pouring in from celebrities and fans.

Balasubrahmanyam was first admitted to hospital in Chennai (formerly Madras) in early August when he tested positive for Covid-19.

He then tested negative in early September but continued to receive life support treatment.

The hospital where he was treated said that the singer died of cardio-respiratory arrest.

The singer, popularly known as SPB, was born in 1946 into a middle class family from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.

He moved to Chennai as a young man where he formed a band with friends including Ilaiyaraaja, who went onto become an acclaimed composer.

Originally studying engineering Balasubrahmanyam dropped out of college to take up singing after he was talent spotted at a music competition. 

He said: ‘I planned to be an engineer. Then music turned the course of my life. I realised not to plan and let things play out for me.

‘I want to stop singing the day I feel cannot.’

Balasubrahmanyam’s first major breakthrough in southern films came when he sang for Tamil superstar MG Ramachandran in a 1969 film Adimai Penn.

‘Singing for a superstar like him changed how the Tamil film world looked at me,’ he told an interviewer once.

He began his career in Tamil and Telgu cinema in southern India.

He went onto become the first singer to crossover into Bollywood and achieve fame there too.

Balasubrahmanyam was kept busy working in the Indian film industry from the 1970s up to the present day.

He was also the highest paid singer in southern India and at times he recorded three songs a day.

At the height of his powers the performer spent 17 hours in a single day recording songs for different composers.

His first big Bollywood hit was in 1981 when he sang for the film Ek Duuje Ke Liye (We Are Made For Each Other). 

Then in the same year he set a record by recording 21 new songs in the Kannada language from morning until night for a film composer.

He would fly to Mumbai and record Hindi songs for films when Bollywood demanded it before flying back to Chennai. 

Among his back catalogue are some memorable romantic numbers for the Oscar winning composer AR Rahman for the blockbuster hit, Roja.

Many times Balasubrahmanyam’s voice was pre-recorded for use in films where the actors would then lip-sync to his songs.

At the height of his fame fans would write to him using their own blood for ink. He also smoked and drank iced drinks unlike many Indian singers who think they ruin their voices.

The singer was given two of India’s top civilian honours, Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2011.

Critic VAK Ranga Rao once said: ‘Balasubrahmanyam is a phenomenon.

‘He has a fine voice which always sings true. He has a deep awareness and a basic feel for aesthetics of film music.

‘Adding to all this is a raging enthusiasm; a respect for the art, which is his profession, and an open mind.’

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