RIP Ravi Shankar, Sitar Pioneer and Beatles Buddy
One of the greatest musicians of all time has died. Ravi Shankar, sitar legend and easily one of India's most revered cultural ambassadors, passed away Tuesday afternoon at age 92 in San Diego.
According to ZeeNews, he had been having trouble breathing and was admitted into the hospital last week.
Mr. Shankar is survived by his wife Sukanya and two daughters, sitar player Anushka Shankar and Dallas-bred singer-songwriter Norah Jones. Yes, that Norah Jones.
In the '60s, Shankar become a star in part for his connections to the Beatles, mainly George Harrison, whom he befriended and attempted to make into a sitar great in his own right. Harrison joked to reporters that he could never match Shankar's skill, though he was proficient enough to record "Norwegian Wood" and of course the sitar-heavy "Within You Without You" for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album.
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The pair remained good friends until Harrison's 2001 death.
Shankar sold plenty of records in the U.S. too, opening American ears to the strange, sweet sounds of the sitar along the way. You can no doubt find The Sounds of India or one of his intricate raga LPs in most baby-boomer record collections.
Never before had Hindustani been made so palatable for Western ears. Shankar was one of the first big world-music success stories, and Harrison deemed him the "godfather of world music."
The man was awarded India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna back in 1999, which is no small feat. Phillip Glass has also been highly influenced by Shankar, who was able to influence rockers and classical artists over his lifetime.
Not too bad for a guy who didn't really pick up the instrument he would pioneer until he was 18 years of age.
Interestingly enough, his daughter Anushka is a famous sitar player in her own right, and the elder Shankar and Anushka were both nominated for Grammys this year in the same category, Best World Music Album. The Grammys are on February 10.
Shankar's official site is a gold mine of facts and tidbits about his legacy. I suggest you submerge yourself. He was a true artist and his influence is immense.
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