Kavita was born Sharada Krishnamurthy in a Tamil Iyer family in New Delhi, India to T.S. Krishnamurthy, an employee of Education Ministry. She began her music training upon insistence of her aunt, Ms. Protimma Bhattacharya who enrolled her to Ms. Suruma Basu, who taught her Rabindra Sangeet. She began her formal training in Hindustani classical music under Balram Puri, a classical singer. At the young age of eight, Kavita won a gold medal at a music competition. She won many medals participating in the Inter-Ministry Classical Competition in New Delhi in the mid 1960s.
During her College days at St. Xavier College, Mumbai, she got an opportunity to record a Tagore song in Bengali with Lata Mangeshkar under the auspices of the music composer and singer Hemant Kumar. Although the young Sharada aspired to work with Indian Foreign Services, she moved to Bombay when she was 14 to try her luck as a playback singer in the Hindi film industry.
She is an alumnus of St. Xavier's College, Bombay from where she did her BA Honors Economics. She was very active in the St. Xavier's Music Group during her college days. During the annual college festival (Malhar), she met Ranu Mukherjee, the daughter of Hemant Kumar. Ranu took the initiative of reintroducing Kavita to her father. He was impressed by her grounding in music, so he began using her as a singer during his live performances. In one such performance, playback singer Manna Dey spotted her and employed her to sing advertisement jingles. Through her aunt's strong contacts, she met Jaya Chakravarthy, the mother of actress Hema Malini, who later took the initiative of introducing Kavita to the music director Laxmikant (one of the composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal) in late 1976.
Laxmikant gave her an option to work as a dubbing artiste or a career in playback singing. Kavita chose the latter and impressed Laxmikant with her extremely strong grasp of Hindustani classical music. Initially, she recorded songs and cut demos of songs intended for singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. In her struggling phase, she received the patronage of music composers Laxmikant—Pyarelal, who backed her so strongly that she was labelled as a singer exclusively working with them. This gave many music directors an excuse to avoid working with her.
In 1978, she first sang the Kannada song "Ondanondu kaaladalli" in the film Ondanondu kaaladalli where Shankar nag acted. Then she sang so many Kannada songs in 1990-2000s.
In 1980, she sang the song, "Kaahe Ko Byaahi" in the film Maang Bharo Sajana, which featured her singing in her own voice. Unfortunately, the song was dropped from the final cut of the film. In 1985, her career took off with her first major hit, "Tumse Milkar Na Jaane Kyon" from the Hindi film Pyaar Jhukta Nahin. Post the success of the song, it opened up opportunities beyond the Laxmikant–Pyarelal camp. However, "Hawa Hawaii" and "Karte Hain Hum Pyaar Mr. India Se", two popular songs from the equally popular movie Mr. India (1987), proved to be a turning point in her career. (The songs were composed by music composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the latter being a duet with Kishore Kumar and lip-synced on screen by actress Sridevi.) Her collaboration with Laxmikant-Pyarelal produced several hits.
The 1990s thrust Kavita into being known as one of the leading female playback singers. Her performance as a singer in the film 1942: A Love Story, composed by R.D. Burman won her much popular acclaim. With a string of hits from 1942: A Love Story, Yaraana, Agni Sakshi, Bhairavi, and Khamoshi, Kavita established herself as a leading singer. She went on to work with several music directors of Hindi films of the 1990s, such as Bappi Lahiri, Anand-Milind, A. R. Rahman, Rajesh Roshan, Raamlaxman, Ismail Darbar, Himesh Reshammiya, Aadesh Shrivastava, Nadeem-Shravan, Jatin Lalit, Viju Shah and Anu Malik. During her stint as a playback singer, she sang duets with the leading male singers of her times, from Kishore Kumar and Suresh Wadkar to Mohammed Aziz, Amit Kumar, Manhar Udhas, Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Udit Narayan, Sudesh Bhonsle, Babul Supriyo, Vinod Rathod, S.P. Balasubrahmaniam and Sonu Nigam. Her female duets mostly have been with Alka Yagnik, Anuradha Paudwal and Sadhana Sargam.
After her marriage to violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam in Bangalore on 11 November 1999, Kavita got extremely selective and cut down on her film singing. She started expanding her artistic range to areas which were never explored. She was the main featured soloist in the Global Fusion album released by Warner Bros., featuring musicians from five continents. As she actively started exploring fusion music, Kavita traveled around the world including to the US, UK, Europe, Africa, Australia, East Asia, the Middle East, and South America. She performed in concert halls including Royal Albert Hall in London, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Madison Square Garden, The Lincoln Center in New York City, the Zhongshan Music Hall in Beijing, The Esplanade in Singapore, The Putra Jaya World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and Gewandhaus Leipzigm.
Although primarily a playback singer, Kavita has sung with orchestras as a soloist; she collaborated with Western artists from jazz, pop and classical fields. She has lent her voice for many ghazal and devotional music albums. Both as a fusion music singer and as a playback singer, Kavita has performed throughout India. In 2014, she also sang a song titled "Koi Chahat Koi Hasrat" for the album Women's Day Special: Spreading Melodies Everywhere. It was composed by Nayab Raja and penned by Dipti Mishra.
Their son Ambi and daughter Bindu are well trained in Indian music as well as in Western music. They give performances in India and the world over.
Kavita's playback singing career in south India started with Kannada films. Her first film song was in the Kannada film Ondanondu kaladalli (1978) with the same title. She has sung many hit songs in Kannada since then. Songs like "Bareyada mounada Kavithe"(Sparsha), "Hoove Hoove"(H2O), "Endo Kanda kanasu"(Lankesh Patrike), "O malle o dumbi"('Naga Devate'), "Kaveri Kaveri"(Raja Huli) and many more superhit songs made her name house hold in Karnataka.
Due to her participation in fusion and pop music, Kavita has lent her voice for several pop and devotional albums. The most prominent ones being:Bhajan StutiAadi GaneshVenkatesha SuprabhatamShiva ShlokasKoi Akela KahanMeera Ka RamMahalakshmi StotramPop TimeSai Ka VardaanShagufthagiDil Ki AwaazAthensAsmitaMahiya
Kavita Subramaniam has been making appearances in various music reality shows as a guest judge owing to her popularity as a playback singer. She recently was a judge for Bharat Ki Shaan: Singing Star (Season 1), which aired on DD National at prime time. She also appeared in Vijay TV Airtel Super Singer and Colors Bangla Great Music Gurukul. She has also sung for serials like Mahabharat, Ramayan (1986), Shri Krishna, and Ramayan (2008).
Kavita Krishnamurthy married Dr. L. Subramaniam in Bengaluru, Karnataka on 11 November 1999. They have no children. Subramaniam has four children from his previous marriage. His eldest daughter Gingger Shankar is a singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist while Bindu Subramaniam is a law graduate and singer/songwriter. Narayana is a qualified doctor while the youngest, Ambi Subramaniam, is an accomplished violinist. Kavita and her family have settled in Bengaluru since Kavita's marriage. Kavita and her husband have started music institute, called the Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts, in Bengaluru in 2007. In March 2013, she launched her own app which is available for free download in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.Civilian Awards2005 – Padma Shri – India's fourth highest civilian honoursFilmfare Awards2003 – Best Female Playback Singer (shared with Shreya Ghoshal) – "Dola Re Dola" (Devdas)1997 – Best Female Playback Singer – "Aaj Main Upar" (Khamoshi: The Musical)1996 – Best Female Playback Singer – "Mera Piya Ghar Aaya" (Yaraana)1995 – Best Female Playback Singer – "Pyaar Hua Chupke Se" (1942: A Love Story)Star Screen Awards1997 – Best Female Playback Singer – "Aaj Main Upar" (Khamoshi: The Musical)2000 – Best Female Playback Singer – "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam)Zee Cine Awards2003 – Best Female Playback Singer (shared with Shreya Ghoshal) – "Dola Re" (Devdas)2000 – Best Female Playback Singer – "Nimbooda" (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam)IIFA Awards2003 – Best Female Playback Singer (shared with Shreya Ghoshal) – "Dola Re" (Devdas)Other Awards"Phenomenal That's me" for her contribution to the Kannada film industryYesudas Award (2008) by Swaralaya, for exceptional contribution to Indian music.Kishore Kumar Journalists'/Critics' Award in Calcutta (2002)Bollywood Award, held in New York (2000)Shri Ravindra Jain Sangeet Samman (2012)Lata Mangeshkar Award from the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh (2005)