Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitar master who built a global following, has died according to the Associated Press.
Shankar influenced the music of the Beatles and was also the father of jazz-pop star Norah Jones. Another of his daughters (by another mother), Anoushka Shankar, has also built a following as a sitar player.
Shankar passed away in San Diego, where he had traveled in order to undergo surgery.
Born in 1920 in Varanasi to a well-off Brahmin family, Shankar left a possible career as a dancer behind to study sitar. He traveled to Paris in the 1930s and broke through as a performer in the West in the 1960s, winning the ear and the respect of Beatles star George Harrison (who became his student in the 1960s).
In the book “George Harrison: Living in the Material World” by Olivia Harrison and Mark Holborn, George Harrison says this about Shankar: “I could meet anybody. I could go in all the film stars’ houses and meet Elvis and everybody, and we met a lot of really good people, but I never met one person who really impressed me. The first person who ever impressed me in my life was Ravi Shankar, and he was the only person who didn’t try to impress me.”
Shankar personally influenced and touched lives of a wide range of Western stars, including Marlon Brando and Peter Sellers, and he took part in a number of seminal music concerts including Woodstock (1969) and The Concert for Bangladesh (1971). (In “Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar,” he wrote that he found Woodstock to be “a terrifying experience” where “the music was incidental.”)
Shankar’s mastery of his instrument helped lay the groundwork for the world music boom.