Music Icon Ravi Shankar Dies At 92


Ravi Shankar–arguably the musician responsible for the integration of the sounds of South Asia into Western popular music–died on Tuesday (Dec. 11). A virtuoso on the sitar, the Indian equivalent to the guitar, Shankar is a Grammy Award-winning icon of world music. He was also the father of eight-time Grammy winner Norah Jones. He was 92.

At the forefront of Shankar’s Western followers were the Beatles, who incorporated the sounds of the sitar into songs like “Norwegian Wood ” and “Within You, Without You.” His 1960s appeal on rock n’ roll music landed him performances at the Woodstock music festival and Carnegie Hall. Of his three Grammys total, Shankar’s recording of “The Concert for Bangladesh” won the 1972 award for Album of the Year, and featured Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. It was heralded as the first benefit concert in pop music.

Born Ravindra Shankar Chowdhury in Varanasi, India, on April 7, 1920, Shankar was an advocate for changing the world’s viewpoint of India and upheld his cultural pride. At the 1968 Monterey Pop Festival in California, he refused to play in a lineup that included Jimi Hendrix. Shankar was outwardly opposed to the offensive behavior and drug use associated with the rock culture of the times. Ultimately, the Indian musician’s legacy would become one of reverence and respect.

“One good thing is the people getting stoned don’t do that with my music anymore. I worked hard for that and achieved it,” he later said.

Though his relationship with his daughter Jones began as estranged and distant, the “Don’t Know Why” singer eventually made amends with her father.

When asked by Oprah Winfrey if Shankar was in her life growing up, Jones responded, “He wasn’t, though we’ve gotten close in the last five years and I love him very much.”

Shankar died at a hospital near his Encinitas, California home after a heart valve replacement surgery last week. –Iyana Robertson