Padmashree Dr. K. J. Yesudas is second to none in the history of Indian music. He conquers the dual sphere of light music and classic music. His supremacy in the field of music is unparalleled to the rest in the continent. He made his first stage appearance at the age of 12. He is the only singer in India who bagged the National title for the best singer four times in a row. He has already sung more than 30,000 songs in different languages. The only two Indian languages where he hasn’t entered are Kashmiri and Assamese. His Malayalam film song collection exceeds 4000. He has already recorded in several songs in Tamil, Kannada, Tamil, Gujarathi, Telungu and Bengali.
Born on 10th of January 1940 in an ordinary family as the son of Mr. Augustine Joseph Bagavathor (musician) and Mrs. Elizabeth at Fort Kochi, Padmashree Dr. K.J. Yesudas had to struggle during his childhood even for continued education. After obtaining diplomas in Sangeethabhushanam and Ganabhushanam, he was denied chances for singing in Akashawani (All India Radio) and also during his first attempt in one of Kunchacko’s film "Nalla Thanka". Finally he got a break with the song "Jyathibhetham Mathadheshwam, Ethumillathe sarvarum sodharathewna vazhunna Mathrukasthanamanithu" in the film "Kalpadukal" (foot print) in the year 1961. He was closely associated with the famous Kalabhavan, the workshop of music, for years. His voice is the most popular one in the hearts of Malayalees. His voice holds the pride of being recorded the maximum number of times in Malayalam, language.
In his early years, young Yesudas was a serious Mohammed Rafi fan. These two singers embody the confluence of a very lovable personality with a divine voice; their careers have been motivated not by money or other personal gains, but by eagerness to discover the various waves of the ocean of music.
Among hundreds of honors during his career, following are the most thrilling ones. Earlier in 1976 he won the coveted "Sur Shringar Samsad" Award. The ex-president of India Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy gave him the "Geetanjali" as a symbol of national integration. For his outstanding contributions to classical music, the President of India bestowed the 'Padmashree' in 1984. Bagging the best film singer award in 1993 for the malayalam movie Soapanam made him the first singer ever to get the national award four years in a row; the three other awards were for "His Highness Abdullah" (1990), "Bharatam" (1991) and "Sargam" (1992). Having risen to fame initially as a film singer has made his rise to the status of a top class classical singer slow and fraught with skepticism. Yesudas as a classical giant had been taken more seriously after his famous concert at the Shanmukhananda Hall in Bombay when Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar gave him the congratulatory shawl. A similar spontaneous response also came at the esteemed Madras Sahitya Academy from the maestro Balamurali Krishna. "Chitchor" also won him a Film Fare Award in 1980. In 1991, he received the honorary degree from Annamalai University in receipt of his priceless contributions to music and art. In the same year he received Latha Mangeshkar Award. He is also the recipient of 18 Kerala State Awards, 8 Tamil Nadu State Awards, 5 Karnataka State Awards, 4 Andhra Pradesh State Awards, and one Bengal State Award. He also received "Star of Cochin Award" in 1992 and subsequently Government of Kerala acknowledged him as "Asthana Gayakan".
Music came as divine grace and paternal inheritance to K.J.Yesudas, one of India’s foremost exponents of classical carnatic vocal music and leading playback singer in all-Indian languages. His classical concerts and film songs programs continue to captivate millions of listeners at home and abroad.
Till the date he has recorded over 40,000 songs in different languages and won scores of accolades including the coveted Padmashree honour and seven national awards for the best playback singer and many more awards . In spite of all his success in popular music, he enjoys classical Karnatik music more than any other. He is one of the few singers in the world who sings in the classical idiom as well as he does in the popular.
Yesudas performed the title track from his new album, "Ahimsa", accompanied by the extraordinary Pakistani group Junoon. The synergy created by Yesudas and Junoon, aimed at peace, was an inspiration to all those present, which included renowned artists like Lionel Ritchie, Ray Charles, Montzerra Caballe and Zubin Mehta conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. The legendary actors Gregory Peck, Sydney Poiter, and Peter Ustinov were the masters of ceremony. Dignitaries from around the world, including the heads of the European union and the ambassadors from 170 countries attended this global event. They gave Yesudas's performance a standing ovation.
In 1965, he was invited by the Soviet Union government to perform at music concerts in various cities in the U.S.S.R and had sung a Russian song over Radio Kazakhstan. In 1970 he was nominated to head the Sangeetha Nataka Academy of Kerala, he was the youngest person ever to occupy the office. In 1971, Yesudas with his musical troupe travelled around Kerala to raise funds for the Indian Prime Minister's National Defense Fund during the Indo-Pakistani War. He also became Senate member in the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an international organization incorporated in the U.S. (see and ). On November 14, 1999, Yesudas was presented an honorary award by UNESCO for "Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace" at the "Music for Peace" event in Paris, a concert held to mark the dawn of the new millennium and whose attendees included artistes such as Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Montserrat Caballé and Zubin Mehta.
* Completed the Ganabooshanam course at R.L.V. Music Academy, Thripunithura, Cochin
* Graduated from the Sree Swathithirunal Music Academy, Trivandrum
* Trained under well-known musicians like K.R.Kumaraswamy (former principal of the Music College, Kochi), Kunjuvelan Aasan (a disciple of Nagaswera Vidwan Rajaratnam Pillai), Augstune Joseph, Ramakutti Bagavathar, Sivaraman Nayar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar....
Titles, Honours and Major Awards
* Padma Bhushan by President of India in 2002.
* Padma Sri by President of India in 1973.
* Doctorate by Annamalai University , Tamil Nadu in 1989.
* D.Litt by Kerala University , Kerala in 2003.
* Asthana Gayakan ( Official Singer ) by Government of Kerala
* Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1992.
* Asthana Vidwan ( Official Teacher ) by Udupi, Sringeri and Raghavendra mutts.
* Sangeetha Sagaram ( Music Ocean ) in 1989.
* Sangeetha Chakravarthy ( Music Emperor ) in 1988 by Pallavi Narasimachary
* Sangeetha Raja ( Music King ) by Chembai in 1974.
* Sangeetha Ratna ( Music Jewel ) by Lt. Governor of Pondicherry M.M. Lakhera
* Swathi Ratnam( Swathi Jewel )
* Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwanmani in 2002.
* Bhakti Sangita Geetha Sironmani in 2002.
* Gaana Gandharva.
* Geetanjali Award. by The ex-president of India Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
* Sur Shringar Samsad Award. in 1976.
* Kalaimamani Award by Government of Tamil Nadu.
* Star of India Award by Lt. Governor of Pondicherry M.M. Lakhera
* National Citizens Award in 1994
* Mar Gregorius awrd Governor RL Bhatia in 2006
* The `Annual Latha Mangeshkar Award by Government of Madhya Pradesh in 1992.
* Dr Pinnamaneni and Seethadevi Foundation Award in 2000.
* Senate member in the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an organization incorporated
in the United States.
* An Honorary award for "Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace" by UNESCO in 1999
* National Film Awards Seven times for the best Playback singer by Government of India
* State Film awards Twenty three times for the best Playback singer by Government of Kerala
* State Film awards Eight times for the best Playback singer by Government of Tamil Nadu
* State Film awards Five Times for the best Playback singer by Government of Karnataka
* State Film awards Five times for the best Playback singer by Government of Andra Pradesh
* State Film awards One time for the best Playback singer by Government of West Bengal
Dr.Yesudas won national award seven times, a record, no other singers either male or female managed equal or surpass.
* 1972, Film Name: Achanum bappayum, Language: Malayalam, First line of the song: Manushyan
* 1973, Film Name: Gaayathri, Language: Malayalam, First line of the song: Padmatheerthame
* 1976, Film Name: Chitchor, Language: Hindi, First line of the song: Gori thera gaon bada
* 1982, Film Name: Megha Sandesam, Language: Telugu , First line of the song: Aakasa desana
* 1987, Film Name: Unnikale Oru Kadha Parayam, Language: Malayalam , First line of the song:
Unnikale oru kadha parayam
* 1991, Film Name: Bharatham, Language: Malayalam, First line of song: Rama kadha gaana layam
* 1993, Film Name: Sopanam, Language: Malayalam, First line of the song: Sopanam (title song)
In 1980 Yesudas established the Tharangni Studio at Trivandrum. In 1992 the office and studio were moved to Chennai and the company was incorporated in the U.S. in 1998. Tharangni Studio and Tharangni Records became a recording center in Kerala which, for the first time, brought out audio cassettes of Malayalam film songs in stereo. The record company also had a voice mixing studio in Chennai, Studio27. The studio continues to produce and present events of Yesudas both for film and Indian classical music concerts throughout the world.