A legend has breathed his last. A magical voice will be heard no more. S P Balasubramaniam, regional cinema’s greatest ever singer, has passed away after a prolonged battle with Covid-19 and other health issues. With a staggering career of five decades and over 40,000 songs in all languages, SPB was an institution by himself. How does one pay homage to someone of his magnitude? How does one begin to reminisce about his unattainable achievements, his records, his awards and his sheer vocal prowess? The whole industry and the fans mourn this huge loss.
— A.R.Rahman (@arrahman) September 25, 2020
அன்னைய்யா S.P.B அவர்களின் குரலின் நிழல் பதிப்பாக பல காலம் வாழ்ந்தது எனக்கு வாய்த்த பேறு.
ஏழு தலைமுறைக்கும் அவர் புகழ் வாழும். pic.twitter.com/9P4FGJSL4T
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) September 25, 2020
His was a voice that moulded the careers of superstars, inspired myriad emotions through music and shaped a whole generation of evergreen films. But above all, his was a voice that defined the childhood of a million or more fans – fans like me who are pained to fathom that this voice has ceased to exist. But his legacy will continue to live on in each of us and here’s why.
The glorious 80’s and 90’s with SPB
Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, Tamil music as we knew it started and stopped with S P Balasubramaniam. Those were the days of the humble cassette player and invariably, it would be a popular SPB track that would waft its way through the house and into our ears. It was also the era of the radio with the family gathering around to predict which famous SPB song will be played next. With every new film that released, we would rush to the nearest audio store to pick up the latest film soundtrack which would more often than not have a dominance of an SPB-Ilayaraja collaboration and later on with A R Rahman, Vidyasagar and so many others. The next few days would be spent in listening, rewinding and replaying these songs over and over again until the spools of the cassette threatened to rip! That was the impact of the music SPB created.
A singer for all seasons
What was the SPB magic that resonated with and impacted all of us so greatly? It was his ability to conceive, comprehend and convey the mood of the song almost like an actor would on screen. Whether it was the mirth and abandon of “ Thanga Thamarai Magale” or the emotional pathos of “ En Kaadhale”, the honeyed romance of “ Sundari Kannaal Oru Seidhi” and “Nilave Va” or the resounding punch of “Rakamma Kaiyya Thattu” and “ Ilamai Idho Idho “, or the grating pain in “Kadhal Rojave”,SPB lived these moments through his ageless voice and took us on an emotive journey with him. His music was our constant companion through happy sad and lonely times and that solace alone is the greatest gift that he could leave us with.
Humility, thy name is SPB
SPB was an anomaly in many ways. His vocal timbre never waned as he aged and he still held a childlike passion and fascination for music. But more importantly, he was a stellar human being and a role model for so many people not just for his singing but for the way he leads his life. He was a philanthropist with a heart of gold and a genuine admirer of young talent. He believed that no man is beyond or greater than the power of music and the blessings of the Almighty. This humility and submission towards a greater cause made his music attain immortal heights. In a world of instant gratification, one song wonders, arrogant attitudes and the like, SPB stood apart.
As the nation mourns the passing of a musical icon, all we can say is thank you for the music SPB Sir. You will continue to live on through your songs and deeds. Rest in power and peace.