He was born as Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam into an orthodox Saivite family on June 4, 1946 in Konetammapeta (then in Madras Presidency and now in Andhra Pradesh). He is the second son in a large family of three sons and five daughters. His father S. P. Sambamurthy was a well-known exponent of Harikatha and his sister S.P. Sailaja is a former actress-singer in Telugu.
When he was 21, he fell in love with the daughter of the owner of the house he was staying on rent. His parents objected to their union as the girl was of same “Gothram” (lineage), as this was prohibited in conservative Brahmin families. They eloped and got married at Simhachalam, Andhra Pradesh accompanied by Ilaiyaraaja,Bhaskar,Anirutta and Gangai Amaren,who were his best friends.His wife’s name is Savithri. The early days of the couple at Chennai was very difficult and tough. The couple have two children namely Pallavi and Charan, who have a production company named Capital Film Works. Charan’s voice almost resembles S.P.B’s voice.
Balu took to singing as a hobby during his childhood. He developed an interest in music very early in his life, and had studied notations and learnt to play instruments such as harmonium and flute on his own while listening to his father. His father wished that Balu should become an engineer which brought him to Ananthpur, where he enrolled for the AMIE course in JNTU. Meanwhile, he also pursued his hobby and won awards at many singing competitions. From there he had identified as a good singer in annual, college functions where he use to sing and then referred and recommended by his friends for Madras, to sing.
In 1964, a Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation, organised a music competition for amateur singers. Balu won the first prize, and that proved a turning point in his life. Music director SP Kodandapani took him under his wing. Then offers poured in from Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam movies.
Before he became a full fledged cinema singer, Balu was the leader of a light music troupe that comprising
- Anirutta, who was working in Corporation and was the harmonium artist
- Ilaiyaraaja who joined the group as Guitarist and then moved over to harmonium after Anirutta became busy in his regular job
- Baskar, Ilaiyaraaja’s brother who was in charge of Percussion
- Gangai Amaran another brother of Ilaiyaraaja who was the Guitarist after Ilaiyaraaja moved over to Harmonium
Balasubrahmanyam made his debut in film music as a singer in Dec 15,1966 with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, a film scored by his mentor Kodandapani. He has sung more than 39,000 songssince in more than 5 different Indian languages including Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. However, he has sung most of his songs in Telugu. He holds the Guinness record for having sung the most number of song recordings by any singer (the record for a female singer is held by Lata Mangeshkar).
A gifted singer, he is highly regarded for his incredible vocal range, deep rich voice, and mastery of style, technique and control. These qualities allowed him expression across various genres of Indian music, and he has been highly sought after by many of India’s film music composers. His approach to singing is methodical; he perseveres to understand the full meaning of the songs that he sings (many of which are very poetic) and the settings in which these songs are couched in order to most effectively match their requirements with his vocal delivery.S.P.B., though was very young, started singing for many different language films. As he became very busy, at times he used to sing even 17 songs in 12 hours at the recording theatre. He has also sung in Sanskrit and some regard his pronunciation of this language to be very good.
He has performed both the popular and classical music of India. For example, the songs he performed in the films Sankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam, Rudra Veena were based on Carnatic classical music, and the song Umandu Ghumandu in the movie Ganayogi Panchakshari Gavayi was based on Hindustani classical music.
SPB virtually monopolised playback singing for more than 30 years in the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil cinema.His contemporary Dr.K.J.Yesudas monopolised the Malayalam music industry. SPB sang only a few songs in Malayalam. Although Yesudas’ voice was regarded more suitable for sad songs in Tamil, SPB also sang some of the evergreen sad songs in Tamil such as ‘Naanum unthen uravai’,’Nenjukkulle’and ‘Kuyile pudichu’. He hosts a popular TV show called Paadutha Theeyaga on E-TV, Paadalani Undi on MAA-TV ,Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu on ‘E-TV Kannada’ and ‘Ennodo Paattu Paadungal’ on JAYA-TV.