DEAN NELSON, DELHI
December 16, 2009
RAVI Shankar, the Indian sitar player who was one of the inspirations
for the Beatles' flower-power period, has blamed the group for
turning him into a ''pop star'' surrounded by ''drug-smoking hippies''.
The renowned composer - called the godfather of world music by George
Harrison - said he resented the attention from people who were too
''stoned'' to appreciate his music.
In an interview with an Indian television channel, Shankar, now frail
at 89, said he enjoyed their company at first but quickly tired of
everything associated with the 1960s music scene.
''All four came. All of them were very sweet but George was so
special. He would corner me and ask me about the relationship between
spirituality and music, religion and music,'' he said.
''He met me a few times and then I started teaching him. And that
news spread all over. That did help me. When people say that George
Harrison made me famous, that is true in a way.
''I became a pop star all of a sudden. All young people, bearded,
long hair, wearing beads and not normal. They would behave like Naga
sanyasis [cannabis-smoking holy men] if they were permitted.
''And I was not happy at all. I would tell George, 'What have you done?'.''
Shankar taught Harrison to play the sitar shortly after they met in
1966 and went on to influence other bands, including the Byrds and
the Rolling Stones. Although he has talked of his disapproval of the
1960s drug culture before, his latest comments reveal his deep
disapproval for acts such as The Who and Jimi Hendrix, who smashed up
He refused to follow The Who on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival in
1967. ''I saw them kicking the instruments, burning the guitars and
doing obscene things,'' he said. ''It was all drugs and nobody normal
there - the audience or the people on stage. I said I was cancelling
He also described his shock when he arrived at the Woodstock festival
to find thousands of fans ''stoned'' and rolling in the mud.
''It was raining, there was mud all over,'' he said. ''And who was
listening to music? They were all stoned. Completely stoned. And they
were enjoying it.''
Shankar said he did not enjoy being treated like a pop star. ''They
all would sit down and say, 'Tell us guru'. And I said, I am not your guru.
''It was a strange situation at that time. I found such talent but
there were those dumb ones too. But they all were into drugs and that
is what I objected to.'' But while he resented the fame and
adulation, he said he could not resist the ''free love''. His tangled
personal life includes two official marriages and other relationships.