Rest, Ravi… rest.

13 12 2012

Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar dies at 92

A musical icon, one of my personal heroes died on December 11th, in San Diego, California.

shankar-harrisonAs a young musician, I met Ravi Shankar at the Royal Albert Hall, in the early 70’s. I was an American kid in London doing “some piece work” and we all begged our way backstage to see George Harrison and many others, including Ravi, play a benefit concert. For a young musician, it was like going to Disneyland… After the concert, we actually got to meet George and Ravi. Our experience was typical of the experience shared by many others – they were Princes’ among men, and deities among musicians. They talked with us, shared their insights and then, they bid us peace and moved on.

I met Ravi again in the late 70’s when he was visiting an Ashram in Leucadia, Ca. I lived a few miles away in Encinitas and I had heard that he was visiting there. As I often played guitar with some of the residents, I begged entry. His eyes sparkled as he recounted his life, his pleasures and his pains. I remember his recounting the days spent with George (Harrison). When I reminded him of our earlier meeting, his eyes sparkled and then he told me that he remembered meeting me in London, that “fair haired young boy clutching the Telecaster” – he was a beautiful liar…

(I’d brought my #1 Tele along, hoping that I could get George and Ravi to sign it –  George did, Ravi refused. He felt like it was something akin to a “sin”. But, he signed my leather guitar strap. I still have it, to this day.)

During that day, all those years later,  in Leucadia…  I remember him “remembering the glory” and then… when he took a look at my Fender Strat – VoodooCaster… I remember him recounting the horror that was “the Jimi”.

I jokingly asked him to sign the guitar, as before… he refused, but did give me a signature of sorts… he giggled and then slapped me on the back of the head… LOL!

Where some are “wading pools of knowledge”, Ravi was as deep as the ocean. He just “knew” and he shared his insight and life experiences as much as he was able. He was an easy man to admire… many loved his work. I was among them. He loved  deeply… and we loved him right back.

I’ve included excerpts from the Salon article written by By Muneeza Naqvi, AP

[snip]

The musician and one-time mentor to the Beatles was labeled “the godfather of world music” by George Harrison.

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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.

Shankar won three Grammy awards and was nominated for an Oscar for his musical score for the movie “Gandhi.” Despite his fame, numerous albums and decades of world tours, Shankar’s music remained a riddle to many Western ears.

The prime minister’s office confirmed his death and called him a “national treasure.”

Ravindra Shankar Chowdhury was born April 7, 1920, in the Indian city of Varanasi.

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.

Describing an early Shankar tour in 1957, Time magazine said “U.S. audiences were receptive but occasionally puzzled.”

His close relationship with Harrison, the Beatles lead guitarist, shot Shankar to global stardom in the 1960s.

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.

Shankar, a serious, disciplined traditionalist who had played Carnegie Hall, chafed against the drug use and rebelliousness of the hippie culture.

“I was shocked to see people dressing so flamboyantly. They were all stoned. To me, it was a new world,” Shankar told Rolling Stone of the Monterey festival.

While Ravi enjoyed Otis Redding and the Mamas and the Papas at the festival, he was horrified when Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire.

“That was too much for me. In our culture, we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God,” he said.

[snip]

And now, if I close my eyes, I can almost hear Ravi playing sitar with the angels… in a chorus fit only for the ears of G_d.

Ravi  was… a wonder, a miracle, a profound gift to anyone lucky enough to have heard him play… or to have been blessed with the ability to listen to him recount his life.

PS. To say that hearing of Ravi’s passing has filled me with great sadness. is an understatement.

It’s funny that while writing this, I kept hearing George in my head, singing “While My Guitar Gentle Weeps…

I’ve played this song every November 29th, for over ten years…

And then, I remembered this;

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Tribute to George Harrison  – Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Prince, Dhani Harrison

2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

If you can spare the bandwidth, watch it in HD.

A lot has been said about Prince “showboating” during this performance. While it’s NOT the greatest solo ever performed (in my opinion  the Eric Clapton version of this solo was much better), Prince was having a real time of it while he was playing.

The truth?

Prince wasn’t really showing the band “his middle finger”… He was simply making Dhani, the son of a dead friend,  SMILE, by sharing some love…

Ravi… George… Goodbye guys, wherever you are, I’m sure that you’re rockin the walls down…

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