Iconic playback singer and Carnatic exponent K.J. Yesudas turned 70 on Sunday, marked by a quiet birthday at Mookambika temple at Kollur in Karnataka.
The top-notch singer, who has rendered over 40,000 film songs in Malayalam and other Indian languages in a career spanning five decades, offered prayers with his family members at the temple this morning, sources close to Yesudas said.
Born on January 10, 1940 in Fort Kochi as son of actor-singer Augustin Joseph and Elizabeth, Yesudas took early lessons from his father before encounters with leading singers and actors of those days.
After completing schooling at St. Sebasitan High School at Palluruthi, he took music as his main subject joining RLV Music College and later in the Government Music College in Thiruvananthapuram from where he graduated with first rank.
His film career began by singing a score composed by eminent music director M.B. Sreenivasan in ‘Kalapadukal’ in 1961. The song, whose theme was the message of social harmony as propounded by saint-reformer Sree Narayana Guru, was well-received.
After that he teamed up with leading lyricists like Vayalar Rama Varma, P. Bhaskaran and Sreekumaran Thampi and music directors including G. Devarajan, M.S. Baburaj, Salil Chowdhury, M.S. Viswanathan and Ravi, to render several compositions.
“Yesudas stands out as singer on account of his talent, hard work and devotion”, recalled noted music director M.K. Arjunan, for whom the singer had rendered around 400 songs.
“He is one of those singers who practise music in mind even while travelling in an aeroplane or train,” he said.
Every music director has acknowledged the quality of his music, ability to learn compositions fast and talent to render songs without losing the emotions they sought to reflect.
Even at the acme of film career, Yesudas had unwavering commitment to carnatic classical music in which he was groomed by the legendary Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar.
He has also made lasting contribution to devotional songs rendering hundreds of Hindu, Christian and Muslim spiritual songs. His famous ‘Harivarasanam...’ is played every evening at Sabarimala temple before the closure of the temple.
Winner of seven national awards and 23 state awards, he has sung in all Indian languages barring Assamese and Kashmiri. He also has rendered songs in English, Russian, Arabic and Latin.
For Yesudas, an advocate of inter-faith dialogue, a dream remains unfulfilled-that of visiting and singing at the famous Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple, where entry is barred to non-Hindus.