Sitar legend Ravi Shankar dies at 92
POSTED: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 12:04am
CNN — His music transcended trends and cultural barriers. Pandit Ravi Shankar's life, which traversed nearly a century, ended Tuesday.
The legendary sitar player, who taught Beatle George Harrison how to play the stringed instrument and brought Indian music to the West, passed away at age 92 in the early eveningon December 11 in San Diego, near his home, according to his wife, Sukanya, and daughter Anoushka Shankar, who were by his side.
Shankar was the father of jazz singer Norah Jones as well. He is also survived by three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to his record label, East Meets West Music.
His health had suffered over the past year, according to a statement from his record label, and he underwent heart valve replacement surgery last Thursday.
"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery," his wife and daughter said.
In the 1960s, he took Eastern music mainstream in the West. He lent ethereal, spiritual sounds to the Fab Four through his friendship with Harrison, who recorded them on the "Sgt. Pepper's" album in the song "Within You Without You."
Virtuoso performances at Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969 helped cement Shankar's place in Western musical history as an ambassador of Eastern wisdom to a generation looking for new values.
"Ravi was a great loss musically, spiritually and physically. God bless to Ravi's family. Peace & Love," Beatle Ringo Starr said in a statement released through a representative.
In Bangladesh's bloody war of separation from Pakistan in 1971, Shankar and Harrison launched what UNICEF calls the first massive fund-raising pop event, The Concert for Bangladesh, to generate donations for the flood of refugees pouring into India.
Later, from 1986 to 1992, Shankar put his politics into practice as a member of India's upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, or state assembly, serving with India's current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"It was difficult, often, to judge what was more remarkable -- the man or his music," Singh said of Shankar on Wednesday. He praised him as one of India's "most effective cultural ambassadors."
Both houses of parliament observed a moment of silence in his honor.
Shankar's musical career had a long life before and after the '60s. He was born on April 7, 1920, and when he and Harrison met, he was already 46 and famous in India as a classical musician, according to his record label biography.
His classical career outlived his counterculture fame, but he continued to meld East with West and composed concertos, which harmonized his sitar with orchestras. He played duos with American classical violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin and composed with American minimalist Philip Glass. He also wrote film music for the Hollywood movie "Gandhi."
Shankar kept homes in the United States and India.
Despite ill health, he shared a stage with his daughter Anoushka, also a sitar virtuoso, in early November.
It was his last public performance.