Talk of South Indian cinema, and immediately you have some vintage names ripping through your mind. In terms of music, you have MS. Viswanathan and Ilayaraja making gigantic waves in Tamil cinema and the first instance of singer who can leave you craving for more is none other than our very own and dynamic S. P. Balasubramaniam (popularly known as SPB). SPB is one of a kind singer who has added so much versatility to the vocal world. Be it a Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam movie, you couldn't find the songs not having SPB lend his voice to it. That was the case in late seventies, extending to the eighties and well throughout the nineties, and the best part is, he still continues today for selective compositions in the same way. He is a music director's delight and his well defined voice modulation is truly unbeatable. There is so much life to the song when sung by SPB.
SPB made his mark in Tamil cinema when MGR was looking for a fresh voice. It was way back in the early seventies. After that, there was no looking back for one of the best singers in Indian cinema. He has led his voice to almost every big as well as not so well known actor in South India. He has sung well over 50000 songs over a span of three decades, and his voice today is as good as what it was twenty years back. His latest song in Rajinikanth acted ARR composed Sivaji is strikingly popular with the masses. He is so ideally suited to Rajini that it becomes very difficult to make somebody else sing for him. The best part about SPB is he can sing for any of the actors without any difficulty. He might not have got that recognition in Hindi cinema and the reason just beats me as Salman Khan at one point of time wanted only SPB to sing for him. He was very much underutilised in Bollywood for unfathomable reasons. His combination with music maestro Ilayaraja was a golden period of Tamil cinema. Both of them churned out innumerable hits encompassing a wide variety of songs. The combination was just too good. Today when you hear certain singers from the North making a complete mess out of the pronunciations, it is too refreshing to get a chance to hear a song rendered by SPB with perfect pronunciation and dialect. SPB has mastered the four South Indian languages with absolute perfection. For a person without any classical training, it is a wonder to see him come up with such perfect rendition.
SPB is an era by himself. He cannot be compared to any of the singers of today's generation. Nobody can control the South like the way he has done for the last thirty years. There will certainly be an influx of new singers, but the legacy left behind by SPB will be there for many many generations to come.