To write about KJ Yesudas is not an easy job considering his illustrious career as a playback singer spanning over six decades during which he is estimated to have recorded over 50,000 songs. If that is not enough to understand the vastness of his career, something else might help. Yesudas has won the National Award for Best Male Playback singer a record eight times and has won 43 state awards in his career. He has also been honoured with Padma Shri (1975), Padma Bhushan (2002) and Padma Vibhushan (2017).

A vocal marvel who could render even the complex of compositions with ease, Yesudas had once recorded songs in eleven different languages on the same day. It is even said that a Malayali cannot end a day without listening to a Dasettan song somewhere. The songs he crooned for legendary composers Baburaj and Devarajan Master during the 60’s and 70’s are still the soul of Mayalali’s melody. People have an unbreakable emotional connection to songs like “Thamasamenthe Varuvan”, “Pranasakhi Njan Verumoru”, “Oru pushpam Mathramen”, “Ayiram Padasarangal” among others. The way Yesudas treated each word within the lyrical context of these timeless songs is as good as the feeling of touching emotions with your fingers. It is unimaginable to think of any other voice for Malayali’s favourite song “Devangangal Kayyozhinja Tharkam” from Padmarajan directorial Njan Gandharvan, a song that resonates with Yesudas’s honorific Gana Gandharvan meaning the celestial singer from heaven.

“Manushyan Madangale Srishtichu”, a personal favourite of the maestro, is a song Yesudas would sing at public gatherings or social events. The lyrics of the song written by Vayalar Ramavarma for the movie Achanum Bappayum is relevant even today. The first few lines of the song translates to: “Humans created religions. Religions created gods. Humans, religions and gods split the land and minds.”

Even Yesudas’ first popular song starting with the words Jathi Bedham Matha Dwesham was about Kerala’s caste-ridden society. The words were written by one of the greatest social reformers and renaissance leaders Kerala has ever seen – Sree Narayana Guru. In a way, Yesudas’s celestial voice became the tool to propagate ideas of equality and hope of building a world free from the evils of caste and religion through songs like “Manushyan Mathangale Srishtichu” and “Jathi Bedham”. Whenever Yesudas talks at public gatherings and events, he emphasises on the need for communal and religious harmony.

Not only in Malayalam, the legendary singer has also made his mark in Bollywood and other south Indian industries. His songs from the 1976 movie Chithcor composed by Raveendra Jain are popular even today. “Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein” penned by Gulzaar for the movie Sadma is also loved by many.

Yesudas has also proven his versatility by singing many songs of various moods and pace. He has an enviable discography with everyone having their own Dasettan special song.

So, on Yesudas’ 82nd birthday, let’s find comfort in the countless beautiful songs he has rendered over the years.

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