Ravi Shankar Should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Well, more than Donna Summer who is going to be inducted this year or Madonna who was inducted in 2008.
I won’t get into an argument over whether sitar music is “more rockin'” than “Hot Stuff” or “La Isla Bonita” because I’m not sure it is.
But he certainly had more influence on bands that definitely are Hall of Fame caliber. In fact, I will make the argument that the sitar music of Ravi Shankar is responsible for a very specific, very identifiable vibe in rock music history.
For instance, if you were making a movie set in the mid to late-mid Sixties and you wanted to communicate the message of “Hey, this movie is in the mid to late-mid Sixties!” you might do so by having this song on the soundtrack…
In about 5 seconds of sitar music and drums you have fully conveyed your message that, “Yes, this is indeed a movie set in the mid to late-mid sixties”. Just the unique sound of the sitar does more to conjure up an historical context than a five minute montage of “Twiggy” dancing the “Mashed-potato” with “Edwin Muskie” could have.
Here’s another example…
Oh, hell’s yeah….I mean…far out, man! It only takes about 2 seconds of George jamming that sitar to know that we are in/remembering/or hallucinating about the late 1960s.
There’s a long list of songs from that very specific time period where you hear the sitar and automatically know there’s about to be a scene of someone shipping off for Vietnam. The CCR song “Fortunate Son” has also accompanied battalions of cinematic Nam deployments. But for that real unbathed hippy burn-your-draft-card vibe, you can’t go wrong with songs such as “San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)“, “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, or “The Rain the Park and Other Things”.
In addition to the dozens of songs that actually feature sitar, there are hundreds more where the guitar is being played through an effects pedal to sound like it’s really a sitar. Like this one…
Hey, not everybody wants to travel to India and spend 5 months learning a completely different instrument that has, like, 37 strings. That shouldn’t stop your mid to late-mid 60s band from sounding like you did, though, should it?