MUSICAL LEGACY Ravi Shankar’s Legacy
The legendary Indian musician has passed away at age 92, but his impact on the industry won’t soon be forgotten. The Daily Beast looks back on some of the many musicians whose careers were influenced by Ravi Shankar.
By Caitlin Dickson
Legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar passed away Dec. 11 at the age of 92. Shankar’s long and illustrious career as a world-renowned sitarist and composer has had a lasting effect on Western music. Shankar taught the world about Indian music, collaborating with a variety of artists, from John Coltrane to Philip Glass. His friendship with George Harrison was legendary, influencing not only the sound of the Beatles, but innumerable musicians afterward, from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth. While the extent of Shankar’s imprint on modern music is immeasurable, The Daily Beast takes a look at some of the music careers he influenced.
Many credit George Harrison with introducing the Western world to Ravi Shankar, but one of Shankar’s first international collaborations was with American violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The two met during Menuhin’s first trip to India in 1952, but Shankar declined Menuhin’s invitation to perform at a demonstration of Indian classical music in New York the following year, recommending instead Ali Akbar Khan. The positive reaction to Khan’s performance motivated Shankar to drop his Indian record label and go on tour in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom in 1956. Ten years later, Shankar and Menuhin collaborated on their first violin-sitar album, “West Meets East,” which won a Grammy. In a 1995 interview about their first meeting, Menuhin
described Shankar as “an immensely dedicated man of the greatest intensity.” David Crosby and The Byrds
David Crosby and The Byrds met Shankar at the World Pacific Records studio, where they were both recording albums in 1965. The Byrds overheard Shankar’s music and decided to emulate the classical Indian sound in the song “Eight Miles High” and its B-side, “Why.”
George Harrison and The Beatles
once said that Ravi Shankar was “the first person who ever impressed me in my life.” Shankar met the youngest member of the Beatles in London in 1966. That initial meeting was followed by a six-week visit to India, during which Harrison studied the sitar under Shankar, and one of the most famous friendships in music history was born. Shankar’s influence on Harrison can be heard on Beatles classics such as “Within Without You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
John Coltrane and Ravi Coltrane
Shankar’s influence on the jazz legend John Coltrane is clear in Coltrane’s Indian-inspired music, his interest in Eastern spirituality, and in the name of his son. The younger Coltrane has taken after his father as well as his mother, the jazz pianist Alice Coltrane, with his own successful music career. Like his dad, Ravi Coltrane is a
jazz saxophonist and co-owner of the record label RKM Music. Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich’s long career as the “world’s greatest drummer” included collaborations with jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. But even Rich’s strict jazz repertoire wasn’t impervious to the influences of Ravi Shankar. In 1968,
Shankar produced a percussion duet with Rich and Indian tabla player Alla Rakha.
Jean-Pierre Rampal is often credited with giving the flute a newfound popularity as a solo instrument. So it’s only natural that this rule-breaking musician would eventually collaborate with another. Rampal embraced the call of Indian music and
collaborated with Shankar on one of the volumes of “West Meets East.”
Zubin Mehta Philip Glass
In 1990, Shankar paired up with American composer Philip Glass to create the album
The record blended Hindustani classical music with American contemporary classical music and secured the No. 3 spot on Billboard’s Top World Music Albums list. Passages.
Brian Jones Norah Jones
Perhaps Shankar’s greatest legacy is his children. Though he played
a minimal role in her life, it’s obvious that Shankar’s daughter Norah Jones inherited her father’s talent. Following the release of her debut album in 2002, Jones made music history, taking home five Grammy Awards in a single night—a feat accomplished only twice before, by Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys.
Shankar’s influence on his daughter Anoushka is so profound that the two are
nominated in the same category for the 2013 Grammy awards. Ravi’s album, The Living Room Sessions, Part 1, is up against Anoushka’s Traveller, which mixes Indian and Spanish flamenco music.