"Gori tera gaon bada pyara, Mein toh gaya maara, Aake yaahan re...." The golden voice of Yesudas has enthralled generations and soothed a million souls, including Oscar winner A.R. Rahman. The legendary singer turned 70 on Sunday.
Rahman, in a tribute to the veteran playback singer who is fondly called 'Gana Gandharvan', once said: "The most beautiful voice in the world is that of Yesudas."
The versatile singer,dressed in a flowing white kurta and a white dhoti, paid obeisance at the Kollur Mookambika temple with his family on Sunday, a practce he has followed every year on his bithday.
The singer began his career in 1961. Yesudas is the only singer who has bagged seven National Film Awards for best singer in the Indian film industry, a record no singer has been able to equal, let alone surpass.
While five of the national awards came for Malayalam films, in 1977 he won the award for the song "Gori tera gaon bada pyara..." from the Hindi film 'Chitchor' and in 1983 for a song in the Telegu film 'Meghasandesham'.
In 2006, Yesudas sang 16 film songs in four South Indian languages on a single day at a studio in Chennai. The veteran singer has also played the role of a cultural ambassador. In 1965, he was invited by the Soviet Union government to perform at music concerts in various cities in the USSR and also sang a Russian song over Radio Kazakhstan.
His home state Kerala has bestowed upon him the status of 'official singer of the state'. Yesudas is perhaps the only singer whose father Augustine Joseph and son Vijay Yesudas complete three generations of successful singers.
The singer faced a tough time when he came from Kochi to study music in the capital city of Kerala. He used to have his food at a small hotel near Swathi Thirunal Music College. One day, when he sat down to have his lunch there, the owner of the hotel told him that he can have his food only after he pays his dues of around Rs.35.
This left Yesudas deeply hurt but many years later when he came to know that the hotel owner was admitted to a hospital, he went there and gave him financial assistance. He, however, told the owner that "I will not repay the Rs.35 that I owe you. Let that remain a debt so that the relation between us continues".
Another incident which left Yesudas deeply hurt was when just before his singing career started, the All India Radio refused an audition test for him, saying his voice was not good!
Endowed with a "divine" voice and a penchant for hard work, it has been a triumphant journey for Yesudas, winning scores of accolades, including the coveted Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan. On Nov 14, 1999, Yesudas was presented with an honorary award by UNESCO for "Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace" at the "Music for Peace" event in Paris.
Visually challenged music composer Ravindra Jain, who introduced Yesudas in Hindi films, had once said that if ever he got back his vision, the first person he would wish to see is Yesudas - the man with the golden voice.