According to the Associated Press, RAVI SHANKAR, the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with THE BEATLES and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over an eight-decade career, has died. He was 92.
The prime minister’s office confirmed his death and called him a “national treasure.”
Labeled “the godfather of world music” by George Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music. He also pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.
As early as the 1950s, Shankar began collaborating with and teaching some of the greats of Western music, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. He played well-received shows in concert halls in Europe and the United States, but faced a constant struggle to bridge the musical gap between the West and the East.
His close relationship with Harrison, the Beatles lead guitarist, shot Shankar to global stardom in the 1960s. Harrison had grown fascinated with the sitar, a long necked, string instrument that uses a bulbous gourd for its resonating chamber and resembles a giant lute. He played the instrument, with a Western tuning, on the song “Norwegian Wood,” but soon sought out Shankar, already a musical icon in India, to teach him to play it
The pair spent weeks together, starting the lessons at Harrison’s house in England and then moving to a houseboat in Kashmir and later to California. Gaining confidence with the complex instrument, Harrison recorded the Indian-inspired song ‘Within You Without You’ on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, helping spark the raga-rock phase of 60s music and drawing increasing attention to Shankar and his work.