Something Forever

- Chapter 2 Part 3/5 -

-->  Part 1    --> Part 2    --> Part 4   --> Part 5

The meeting

A backsight that, with the help of Neil Spencer, wants to clarify the relationship between the two musicians a bit and make it intelligible. After hearing some Ravi Shankar records at David Crosby of the Byrds Christmas 65/66, George Harrison was awestruck, and soon he bought some records. Sir George recalls: "Yes, it just was appealing to me, the pure sound of the instrument and the music moved me deeply."

"When Ravi Shankar came to England in 1966, apparently everyone was out to bring the two men together. But George Harrison refused to meet Ravi Shankar under conditions dictated by the press - along the lines of "Indian Star meets mystical mushroom". To approach a master as a humble student, was impossible in this way. But in London's "Asian Music Circle Sir George had a few friends who probed discreetly and then arranged a meeting. The fascinating thing about this meeting, there are two versions of the first meeting of the two musicians. George Harrison's version, it would have taken place at a dinner at the home of Peter Sellers, a good friend since earliest Beatles days. Peter Sellers, Goon Show Master of extreme humor and England's most prominent comedy actor, known for his role as Inspector Clouseau at the Pink Panther Films, or as an Indian doctor, in The Millionairess, surrounded by the unique Sophia Loren, singing Goodness Gracious Me, as duet with Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers and Harrison also both shared the same British dry humor."

("Help", as sermon by Peter Sellers, at YouTube)

"Ravi Shankar's version, it would have taken at a meeting in the "Asian Music Circle". When eating with Shankar, Master Harrison mentioned his new song "Love You To" to Ravi Shankar, whom he had recorded recently with members of the Circle. Both talked magnificent, and George Harrison invited Ravi to visit him, to learn more of the sitar and its history. Within days, he he visited George Harrison at his home in Esher, gave a private demonstration and explained the instrument to him. Harrison was George Harrison was overwhelmed and said later:
"I just wanted away from home, with a one-way ticket to Calcutta. In that moment, I would even have left Patti, so strong was the desire getting to know India and its culture!"

From the outside, Sir George's relationship with Shankar appeared as that of a well-protected Western pop star prince with an ascetic master >from the East. In fact, the two did have much more in common than one might suspect at first glance. Both were the youngest siblings of large families. As a young man Ravi Shankar e.g. had led a very priviledged life, a mixture of show business, music, art and glamor. His older brother Uday Shankar was a celebrated dancer and choreographer who had worked with the Russian ballet icon Anna Pavlova. In the thirties of the 20th Century his dance troupe inspired throughout Europe and America.

(Ananda Shankar, Uday's son, at YouTube)

It was a family business with Udays mother and two adult brothers, always with little Ravi in tow. His teenage years were spent in Paris, where he secretly read comics, which he hid in the textbooks of his Catholic boarding school. Meanwhile, he also played a supporting role in the family itself, and after a family dispute Ravi pulled up his roots to follow his musical guru, the sarod player Ustad Allauddin Khan, from now on. As sitar star of the independent India, he met trouble by the local classical music scene in the forties and fifties, as he also composed film music and worked with Westerners like the violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz musician Bud Shank and Daniel Hamrol with whom he did The Encounter music. His association with George Harrison and the advent of rock music earned him many enemies in conservative India, on the other hand he also won a large, young audience in the West.

In the summer of 1967, the Indian bacillus was everywhere. Not least because of "Within You, Without You" which Master Harrison recorded with members of the Asian Music Circle for Sgt. Pepper. Most of the musicians of "The Circle" were semi-professionals, in the daytime salesmen, in the evening companions of the Beatles. The song "Within You Without You", originally written on a harmonium, and inspired by a nocturnal conversation of Master Harrison with his dear friend Klaus Voormann, had a nice basic melody, Sargam, a classical Indian raga, which Sir George was playing every day for practice. The text was warmhearted, almost a sermon on the new age, and this song even deeply penetrated into my young heart, like a sacred mantra.

("Within You Without You" at YouTube)

And so the circle is complete for all, I myself also am awoke only in 1967 with the song "Within You Without You" on Sgt. Pepper, and have found my track and my way, slowly, but knowing to have taken the right thread, precisely the year of enlightenment!
Anyway, "Within You Without You" the philosophical core of Sgt Pepper, is a remarkable achievement for someone who had dealt only 18 months so far with the rules of classical Indian music.
The intro of the song shows how completely George Harrison merged in the idea of karma & dharma, that Hindu law according to which the soul is, by its dependence on material things, tenaciously bound to the existence, and by implication only can be free if she renounces the material world.
Between the song "Within You Without You" and "Living In The Material World", that karma & dharma is a constantly recurring theme for Master Harrison. From the beginning, he integrates Hinduism so completely in his life that yet in 1966 in an interview with the "International Times" he spoke of almost nothing else. God had become a reality for him.!

In "I Me Mine" George Harrison declared the success of the Beatles as result of divine inspiration. When he talked to Hunter Davis, who just wrote the first and last official Beatles biography, he remembered the little booklet that those biking Saffron Swami thrusted into his hand during the filming of Help.
"Now I know that it was part of a providence. Everything follows the way, we too. We became John, Paul, George and Ringo, because we yust followed the path, it was presented to us as if on a silver platter. In the end we reap only what we have sown. I tell you what, and it is the truth. Once you have reached the point where you are doing the things for the sake of truth, nobody can really hurt you, because then you're in harmony with much greater power, which holds a protective hand over all your work and all your doing! "

(Ravi Shankar "Tana mana" at YouTube)


-->  Part 1    --> Part 2    --> Part 4   --> Part 5