For many years, any mention of Ravi Shankar would bring me all the way back to sixth grade. This was the year of a great discovery: the records that my sister left behind. She was probably so concerned with making herself absent that she forgot about the albums left in the closet. It wasn’t a big stash, but it contained some real gems: The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, Cream’s Wheels Of Fire, and Ravi Shankar’s The Sounds Of India.
This little pile of albums definitely stoked my budding MusicNerd™ fire. I can’t even remember if any of my buddies liked any of this music, though I do remember listening to The White Album with my cousin Jeff, who remains a Beatles nerd to this day. And did we listen to the Shankar album? Probably. I knew nothing of Shankar’s influence on the rock world, his Woodstock appearance, or any of that. All I knew was that this incredibly bizarre and beautiful music was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Even since then, any mention of Ravi Shankar and I’m back in my middle school bedroom, listening to the ragas and wondering…What the hell is a raga, anyway?!
And now Ravi Shankar is gone. He was “only” 92 but I was still shocked. The man seemed to have incredible energy even as age slowed his body. In any event, his body of work, both direct and indirect, extends out to an impressive distance. Kind of amazing to think that he influenced the Beatles and Philip Glass. There sure aren’t many musicians out there with that kind of reach.
The old masters have taken some tough hits recently. First Brubeck and now Shankar. It’ll be a sad day when they’re all gone, but we’ll remember them with their music and the attached experiences. I might remember that sunny first floor bedroom with the record player. You might still listen to “Take Five” when you sip that Friday night martini. There are hundreds of songs and millions of stories. This is only one.