Singer S P Balasubrahmanyam, fondly known as SPB, can light up any stage show with unsurpassed energy and effervescence.
What probably sets SPB apart from other singers could be his enduring natural charm of being always ready, or rather, the lack of any preparation. He can just break into a song, anytime. Also, music managers and organisers say he is not a stickler for anything.
SPB had not even once shunned the small pleasures of life that other singers religiously stay away from – ice-creams, cold aerated beverages, cold food, curd etc. Another lesser-known facet of SPB is that he was a smoker for many years. He had to quit many such habits owing to health reasons.
SPB had to endure two surgeries to the vocal cords, a bariatric surgery to reduce weight, and many medicines. But SPB was not one to be affected by any of that. With every passing year, the voice remained intact or, more appropriately, gaining in sheen.
SPB was also the personification of humility – even while riding an interrupted wave of success and fame. He had no qualms of doing a ‘pada pooja,’ a symbolic washing of the feet, of his contemporary, K J Yesudas. He prostrated and in a gesture of respect touched the feet of Yesudas at a programme in Singapore. Thousands of people were witness to this. He called the latter the ‘precinct of music.’ SPB, as his connoisseurs say, made humility his winning mantra.
SPB is also known for his punctuality. Normally, he would turn up at recording studios in time. He was wheelchair-bound for some time due to a leg fracture but he never missed a recording appointment. His extraordinary patience and readiness do any sacrifice for the perfection of a song is seldom seen in others. He rendered the super-hit song ‘Ilaya Nila…’ 16 times over to pace it right with the mesmerising guitar accompaniment. SPB continues to be an enigma to many - both in terms of music and way of life.