George Harrison and Ravi Shankar grew close through music and spirituality. Harrison thought of Shankar as his guru and meeting him fundamentally changed his life. He also grew close to Shankar’s family over the years he knew them. Shankar’s daughter, Anoushka, said that she grew up around Harrison. She appreciated the way that Harrison treated her.
What was Ravi Shankar famous for?
Ravi Shankar was born in Benares, India, on April 7, 1920. He spent his childhood studying music and dance, but he gave up the latter when he turned 18. He studied sitar for the next seven years, and, per Britannica, he became the foremost proponent of Hindustani classical music. He began concert performances in the 1960s.
Harrison and Shankar met in 1965, when a mutual friend introduced them. Harrison had already admired Shanar’s music. Shankar had heard Harrison play the sitar on The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” and, while he didn’t think it was very good, he admired the fact that Harrison was playing the instrument. When they met, Shankar offered to give Harrison lessons on the sitar. From there, they became close friends.
Ravi Shankar’s daughter shared what she admired about George Harrison
Through his relationship with Shankar, Harrison also got to know his family, including his daughter Anoushka. She is also a musician, following in her father’s footsteps and playing the sitar.
“He was, in a way, my father’s best friend, so I just grew up with him being a big part of my life,” she told Vulture in 2009.
When Anoushka started playing music, her appreciation for Harrison deepened. He treated her differently than other people did.
“He was quite key for me, in the sense that so many people I’d meet, whether family or friends, would always respond with this kind of blind enthusiasm to the fact that I played music, like, ‘Wow, you’re so lucky, you owe this to your father,’ and so on, and he’s the one person who, when he saw me, would sit me in a corner and say, ‘Hey, so are you still enjoying it? Do you love it? Do you feel freaked out at all?'”
Ravi Shankar was a mentor to George Harrison
After meeting Shankar, Harrison began looking to him as a mentor. He looked to him as a musical and spiritual guide.
“Through the music you reach the spiritual but the music’s very involved with the spiritual JBS [a reference to a Hindu holy triad — brothers Jagannath and Balabhadra and sister Subhadra — worshipped by members of the Hare Krishna movement —Ed.] we know from Hari Krishna we just heard,” Harrison said, per the book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters. “It’s so attuned to the spiritual scene, it depends how spiritual the musician is. Ravi is fantastic. He just sits there with a bit of wire and just does all that and says all that, things that you know and can’t say because there’s no words and he can say it like that.”