MUMBAI: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, whose prolific output as a singer included around 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages, died on Friday aged 74 after a prolonged battle with coronavirus.

His decades-long career included stints as a musician, composer, producer and voiceover artist, but it was his singing which won him millions of fans across India, with chartbusters in multiple languages.

Known to fans as SPB, he was diagnosed with the virus last month and admitted to hospital in the southern city of Chennai.

His death comes on the heels of what has been a particularly tragic period for Indian cinema, which in May lost composer Wajid Khan to the disease aged just 42, and luminaries Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor to other illnesses in April.

The June suicide of popular actor Sushant Singh Rajput sent further shockwaves across Bollywood, sparking a media frenzy.

Balasubrahmanyan originally intended to be an engineer, but music was never far from his mind, as he entered — and won — singing contests while still at university, eventually making his professional debut in 1966 in a Telugu language film.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020