He was a colossus among musicians, loved for his humility and simplicity as much as his mesmeric voice and talent. In a career spanning over six decades, he took the Kirana gharana and Hindustani music to a new high and earned fans among connoisseurs and ordinary folk alike. One of the most beloved and versatile musicians of our times has sung his last note. Bharat Ratna, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi passed away in Pune on Monday, the 24th January, 2011 after struggling with a brief illness. He was 88 years old.
“..he was an extremely affectionate man, simple and very good-natured. He was particularly encouraging of younger musicians. I remember a train journey from Kolkata to Mumbai in 1966. We were traveling together and out of the blue he turned around and told me: When I look back at those who are following in my footsteps, I see only you. For a young musician it was an overwhelming pat on the back. I met him the last time in December last year. I had sung at the Sawai Gandharva Festival he hosts in Pune and went to meet him the next morning to pay my regards. You did well last night, he said. I asked for and got his blessings. Then he said, I am tired, I want to sleep..”
~ Pandit Jasraj
“..among the many aspects of his life that come to my mind is his alcoholic phase. Occasionally, he would come to my place at 2 a.m. saying he had run out of a drink and I would push him out. But he had the constitution of a horse. He would never allow drinking come in the way of his singing. He would drink to a concert, collapse and emerge from it, singing again. He had fantastic physical fitness and his dedication to singing was total. More than collapsing, it would, perhaps, be accurate to say he would drink and come and sleep off on the stage on which he was meant to sing. He would be in deep sleep when the concert was to begin. The next day, he would wake up and sing to glory. Drink he may have had, but he never disappointed a soul, and no soul ever went back disappointed. Bhimsen would work hard on his singing and voice, going on for hours on end in the very early morning. He would work so hard it would frighten even the great Gangubai Hangal. She, in fact, said one day she was very scared by his practice..”
~ Girish Karnad
Source: The Times of India, 25th January, 2011.