Indian music legend KJ Yesudas' career as playback singer today entered its golden jubilee year embellished with a record contribution of more than 50,000 film songs in various languages, including his mother tongue Malayalam.
Yesudas sang his first film song on November 14, 1961 by rendering four lines from a verse of saint-reformer Sreenarayana Guru to which music was set by the late MB Sreenivas for Malayalam film Kalppadukal.
Now 71, Yesudas has since then rose to become one of the country's most-heard singers whose mellifluous voice made hundreds of songs ever-haunting.
Besides Malayalam, he has sung in Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Odiya, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tulu and foreign languages like Malay, Russian, Arabic, Latin and English.
According to music critics, Yesudas stands out on account of rare quality of his voice, dedication and hard work.
He has shown great talent to modulate his voice to express minute nunances of sentiments and has great versatality to sing all types of songs - romantic, philosophic and humourous.
Yesudas has also partnered with three generations of female singers, many of them top-notch artists like P Suseela, S Janaki, P Leela, Vani Jayaram, Chithra and Sujatha.
His talent has been tapped by leading music directors like G Devarajan, MS Baburaj, K Raghavan, MS Viswanathan and MK Arjun.
He has bagged national award for the best male playback singer seven times and state awards for the best playback singer more than 30 times in various languages like Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Bengali.
According to poet and lyricist Ezacherry Ramachandran, no other Indian singer has succeeded in correlating words and their meaning as brilliantly and beautifully as Yesudas.
"Yesudas is one of those rare singers who can enthral every listener. Anything similar to his voice has never happened in the history of south Indian film music. Not only the magical voice but his knowledge of music, understanding of the lyrics often made him the favourite of composers as well as listeners," Ramachandran told PTI.
Son of Augustine Joseph, stage actor and musician of his time, Yesudas joined the R L V Music Academy in Ernakulam and later graduated from Sri Swathi Tirunal Music Collge.
Passionate about south Indian classical music, he honed his skills as a disciple of the legendary Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar besides music greats like Vechur Hari Hara Subramania Aiyer.
Even at the peak of his career, he took time off to render classical concerts in various parts of the country and abroad.