D Imman, composer
SPB sir was a positive person, a wonderful human being. I am in grief. I have worked with him from my TV days. I had the opportunity to record both SPB sir and Shankar Mahadevan for the film, Jilla. He has sung for my upcoming film with Rajinikanth, Annaththe, as well. It has always been special to have SPB sir sing a Rajini introduction number. And now, to think that his final song would be in my film...it is hard to describe the emotion. I consider these experiences as priceless. He is a thorough professional who always gave his 100 per cent. Despite being a veteran, he never said no to retakes. SPB sir cannot be replaced, not only with respect to soul and tone, but also in terms of recording techniques. It is easy to record with him. He might take his time to rehearse, but his recording sessions never last more than 10-15 mins. He considers his time in front of the mic extremely important.
I’m lost for words. I doubt if there can be a sorrow deeper than this. My relationship with him is something I cannot describe. I’ve known him from childhood when he started to work with my father. He showed a keen interest in my career. His voice is irreplaceable. The heights he reached are something no one else can reach anymore. It’s hard enough to excel in one industry and in one language, but he made his mark in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi film industries. On all the stages he performed in, he always remembered to mention me; few artistes would have the heart to do something like that.
Vasanth, film director
SPB was a great human being and such a pleasant person. He was a legend, but he never had the air of a celebrity. He never carried his achievements on his shoulders. He was a simple, humble man but extremely intelligent, and had a great sense of humour.
GV Prakash, composer
We worked in a few instances. We first collaborated for the Ayyayyo track from Aadukalam. He was really happy about it because he got to team up with his son, SPB Charan, for the song. Ayyayyo turned out to be a huge hit as well. It was a fantastic experience for someone like me to work with him. I found him to be extremely gentle and humble. He will be dearly missed. Most of the iconic songs in our cinema were sung by him. We have all learned a lot from his work.
SPB’s songs have been an integral part of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The first song of his that I remember listening to as a kid, which I then recorded on tape, is Enna satham from Punnagai Mannan. Kadhal Rojave from Roja was one of my go-to songs when growing up. When I wanted to be a singer as a teenager, I tried to emulate SPB the most. The emotions he put into his songs and the ease with which he sang in different styles for different heroes is something that I’ve always admired. All his songs are legendary but here are a few favourites: Konji Konji from Veera, Sundari from Thalapathi, Thanga Thamarai from Minsara Kanavu.
Manasa Sancharare from the film Shankarabharanam was my first introduction to SPB sir’s golden voice. He played a big role in my small musical journey. His Aayarpaadi Maligaiyil from Krishna Ganam album was yet another childhood song that I cherish till date and play it on Janmashtami every year. I have grown up listening to his songs — be it from the movies, light or devotional. He was born for a purpose and he did it with elan. He has left behind a meaningful message on how one can be a beautiful human being even at the pinnacle of one’s career and success.
SP Balasubrahmanyam sir is the reason I developed an interest in film music singing and ventured into it full-time. My father, a big fan of Ilayaraaja sir, used to play his songs and that’s when I was exposed to SPB sir’s music too. My all-time favourite songs are Ilamai ennum poonkaatru and Minnale nee vantha thenadi. In October 2015, on my birthday, I had the chance to meet him on the sets of Vijay TV’s Super Singer, where I was a contestant. I was introduced to him by the director. He placed his hand over my head, chanted a sloka and blessed me. These memories will be etched in my mind.
SP BALASUBRAHMANYAM, YOUR MEMORIES WILL REST IN MUSIC
VIJAY ANTONY, MUSIC COMPOSER
He was a great human: simple, grounded, downto- earth, professional. To hear that such a man is no more with us, is saddening. He was a born genius; he wasn’t a trainer singer when he entered the industry. And he was always a single-take artist. He recorded an entire pallavi, or a charanam, in one take. And his diction was always perfect. The kind of expression he brought to his singing was incredible. Even though he is physically no more, his voice will continue to live with us. The way he lived and treated people is an example to follow. It is a huge loss for all of us.
SURESH KRISSNA, DIRECTOR
SPB was a friend of everyone. He was ever-smiling and had no enemies. He always made sure to understand the script and the setting of the song to give an output that suited the film. This is the reason why his songs are huge hits as visuals too. He has been an integral part of all my films and I was there with him when he recorded his first Hindi song. Whenever he sang the intro number for my films like Annamalai, Veera or Baasha, I knew that they would be a hit even before their release. And they have all stood the test of time and are popular even now. He always sent me voice notes instead of texts, so it always felt like he was with me. He last spoke to me on August 2. My wife and I hoped he would recover and return soon. It is devastating to realise that he is no more.
He was a noble artist who sang thousands of songs for over half a century — a man who turned all that
he breathed into music. Even after attaining such greatness, he lived as a humble, virtuous person
till the end. Probably the gods wanted you to sing for them and so they took you to be with them.
I still can’t come to terms with his demise. He struggled for 50 days. It was disturbing to see the ventilator on his throat because that throat gave us some magnificent songs. After all this, we thought he would rest for a while and get back to his old self. I never expected this to end this way. SPB must have gotten a boon from somewhere to sing the way he did. Such miracles happen only once in 100 years. Nobody can deliver the level of perfection he could. He would prepare for each song even if he had sung that song a hundred times on stage before. At the age of 74, not many can even sing, but he does that with perfection on stage. At least in recordings, you can go for multiple takes, but that’s not the case with stage performances. As his co-director at ISRA (Indian Singers Rights Association), I had the opportunity to attend many board meetings with him. His wisdom and the guiding force that he was, was just incredible.
He is the only singer I know of who has been at the top for almost his entire career. Singers’ voices change with age but it didn’t affect Balu anna. Even though he used to have ice creams and things that singers generally avoid, when he got up on the stage… voice chumma ganeernu irukum. One aspect of him that I adore is how he never let his achievements go to his head. Even when you praised his work, he would sit calmly as if we were talking about someone else. He has made his death feel personal to all of us, right? That’s SPB.
I am devastated; it is hard to accept this. He was a complete artist whose excellence was unparalleled. He was a terrific stage performer, one whose diction was always perfect. Only a singer who knew the importance of lyrics could add the flourishes that he gave. For example, in Malare Mounama, the way he sings the lines ‘kaattre ennai thalladhu iru ’, makes it feel like a breeze is pushing against us. It is a blessing that I was able to work with him in two important films (Petta, Darbar). He had a notebook with him where he wrote down the song, composer and lyricist, as documentation for himself. For a legend who has sung over 40,000 songs, such organisation was admirable. Beyond all this, he had his innocence intact, which is why we can only relate SPB sir to happiness and joy.
ONE FROM THEIR HEART
Collaborators pick their favourite SPB song from his discography
Ilamai Ennum Poongattru (Pagalil Oru Irave)
Kaadhalin DheepamOndru (Thambikku Endha Ooru)
Vannam Konda Vennilavae (Sigaram)
SHAKTI SOUNDAR RAJAN
Naan Pogiraen Mele Mele (Naanayam)
Sundari Kannal Oru Sethi (Thalapathi)
Mandram Vandha Thendralukku (Mouna Ragam)
En Kadhale (Duet)
Mannil Indha Kaadhal Andri (Keladi Kanmani)
(As told to Ashameera Aiyappan, Gopinath Rajendran, Kirubakhar Purushothaman, Navein Darshan)