Listen to one of his famous songs inside
(Scroll to bottom of article)

Thanongsak Bhakdideva, Thailand's answer to Frank Sinatra, passed a way yesterday.

He died from kidney failure after spending six years in hospital. He was 72 years old.

Thanongsak belonged to the Golden Age of the luk krung, or popular Thai songs in the 1960s and early 1970s. It was a remarkable period of the luk krung when love songs were composed and performed with music bands that adapted their style from the West.

On the international scene back then, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley were rocking the world with their innovative music and songs that captured the imagination of their fans.

"You may say that Thanongsak was a Frank Sinatra. He had a soft tenor voice and a pleasing personality," said Wittaya Tomornsunthorn, the manager of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. "He broke new ground in popular Thai music by introducing new forms of popular songs that were very modern for the day."

Thais grew up in the 1960s and early 70s with the songs by male singers such as Charin Nanthanakhon, Suthep Wongkamhaeng, Thanin Indrathep and Thanongsak. Charin's voice was probably most powerful because he had a big chest and an expansive lungs. He was famous for his 'legato' phrasing from one phrase to another. Suthep's voice was described as sounding like "beer foam", very warm and friendly, while Thanin was a later comer, who tried to epitomise his predecessors.

Thanongsak cut his own style with a sweet, mellow sound that charmed his audience.

Thanongsak was born to Yosaeng Bhakdideva and Sulaleewal Suwannathad on August 29, 1935. His parents were both wellknown artists in the Thai classical arts.

He was professionally trained as an accountant. But there was a dramatic incident that changed the course of his life for good. In 1957, he accompanied a troupe of classical Thai dancers, led by Suwat Woradilok, to perform in China. Suwat was a socialist with radical political opinions.

Upon their return home, Thanongsak and the others were questioned by the police who suspected them of sympathising with the Communists. This made it impossible for Thanongsak to get a normal job because companies did not want to risk hiring a suspected Communist.

Thanongsak was forced to enter the music business by default to make a living. In 1957, his first record, called "Uangdokphah", came out on the market and was greeted with a good response from the Thai audience. The music and lyrics from this record were composed by Samarn Karnjanaphlin and Kasem Chuenpradit respectively.

With the success of his first record, Thanongsak went on to enjoy more fame with other luk krung songs that now have become classics such as "Yam Chang", "Kaenchanja", "Yoophuakoithoe", "Horakhorang", and "Nok Ieng Ja".

Thanongsak's singing style was a mix of his sense of humour and someone who wanted to be loved. This separated him from other artists.

But his most success venture as a singing artist was his grouping with Meesak Nakharat and Sakarin Boonyarit to become the "Three Sak" band. While Meesak assumed a comedian's role with both his singing and acting and Sakarin was wellknown as a Thai Elvis, Thanongsak stayed Thanongsak.

As a result, he was awarded three gold longplay discs from His Majesty the King for "Maewmeow", "Klai Khao Ma Laew" and "Rai Arom".

Apart from singing, Thanongsak also became involved in television drama acting at the dawn of Thai television. He assumed a major role in "Khun Suk" and was also a main character in "Khun Phaen" produced by Samarn Kraprayoon.

After his retirement from the entertainment industry, Thanongsak bought land in Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima and became a farmer. He was hospitalised in 2001 after suffering a blood clot in his brain.

Thanongsak was survived by his wife, assistant professor Krishna Bhakdideva, who bore him five children - Karannee, Sutheesak, Samaksamorn, Sorwat and Phisetsak.

The Nation