Sitar legend Ravi Shankar dies at 92

Posted at 8:32 AM, Dec 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-12 08:32:25-05

By Ben Brumfield, CNN

(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 evening in San Diego, California, 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 lagged 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 1960′s he took Eastern music mainstream in the West, lending ethereal, spiritual sounds to the Fab Four through his friendship with Harrison. Virtuoso performances at Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969 helped cement his place in Western musical history as an ambassador of Eastern wisdom to a generation looking for new values.

In Bangladesh’s bloody war of separation from Pakistan in 1971, Shankar and Harrison launched the first massive fund-raising pop event — according to UNICEF — the Concert for Bangla Desh, to generate donations for the flood of refugees pouring into India.

But his career had a long life before and after the 60′s. 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 mix 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 “Ghandi.”

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.