Sound Check

Ravi Shankar dies at 92: Things you should know about the legendary sitar musician

Ravi Shankar (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

World musician Ravi Shankar passed away on Dec. 11 at the age of 92 after suffering upper respiratory and heart problems following a heart-valve replacement surgery, which he underwent last week.

 

Indian Sitar Virtuoso Ravi Shankar Dies at 92Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar has died at the age of 92. Shankar introduced western audiences to traditional Indian music in the 1950's and 60's. (Dec. 12)

According to Reuters, his family said in a statement:

"Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. He will live forever in our hearts and in his music."

See more: More on Ravi Shankar

Here are eight things that you should know about this global musician.

1. Although estranged, he is the father of Grammy Award-winner Norah Jones.
In the 1970s, Shankar had an affair with Sue Jones, a New York concert producer, who gave birth to Norah Jones in 1979. Her birth name is Geethali Norah Jones Shankar.

2. He has been honoured with India's Bharat Ratna.
Described as "the highest civilian honour, given for exceptional service towards advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of Public Service of the highest order," Shankar took home the award in 1999.

3. He was a muse for the Beatles and taught George Harrison how to play the sitar.
In an interview, Shankar spoke of how he first met the "Fab Four," saying, "It was at a common friend's house. All four (The Beatles) came and I did not know much about their music but I had heard they were very famous."

He continued, "All of them were very sweet but George was so special. He would corner me and ask me about the relation between spirituality and music, religion and music. He met me a few times and then I started teaching him. And that news spread all over. That did help me. When people say that George Harrison made me famous, that is true in a way."


4. He was called the "Godfather of World Music" by Harrison and had strong convictions about his music.
"When George became my student, I got a new audience: the younger generation," Shankar said in a 1997 interview with Rolling Stone.

He also said, "And, of course, they came like a flood because the whole thing happened with the hippie movement and this interest in Indian culture. Unfortunately it got all mixed up with drugs and Kamasutra and all that. I was like a rock star . . . I never said one shouldn't take drugs or drink alcohol, but associating drugs with our music and culture, that's something I always fought."

5. He and Harrison were behind The Concert for Bangladesh.
One of the first of its kind, Shankar said of the star-studded charity concert that was held in 1971 at Madison Square Garden, "I was in Los Angeles, hearing about this terrible tragedy: 100,000 refugees coming into Kolkata, and yet almost nobody knew about it."

He added, "I felt I had to do something. I was in this terrible state of mind when George [Harrison] came to LA for a few days. He saw I was looking so sad, he was really concerned, and so I asked if he could help me. Immediately he called his friends."

The benefit concert featured performances by musicians Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, R&B artist Billy Preston and The Wrecking Crew's Leon Russell and made way for future concerts of its kind like Live Aid.

6. He has three Grammy Awards.
Shankar has taken home Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Chamber Music Performance for his record "West Meets East" in 1967, Album of the Year for "The Concert For Bangladesh" in 1972 and Best World Music Album for "Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000" in 2001.

At the 55th annual Grammy Awards, he is again nominated for Best World Music Album for his work "The Living Room Sessions Part 1."

7. He performed at Woodstock in 1969, which according to Philip Glass of The New York Times, "He did not enjoy at all."
"I was invited for the first Woodstock," he said. "Actually, I started the programme. Joan Baez sang and after that it started drizzling. So I said I won't play because my sitar will get wet. So they quickly tried to cover it with something and I performed. But that was the experience that changed my whole view, because there were half a million people. It was raining, there was mud all over. And who was listening to music? They were all stoned. Completely stoned. And they were enjoying it."

8. He played beautiful music with his daughter, Anoushka Shankar, who began learning about music from her father when she was nine.

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