Once upon a time, there was a guitarist named George Harrison who lived in Liverpool, England. He played in a band called The Quarrymen with his friend Paul McCartney and bandleader John Lennon. As time went by, said band recruited drummer Ringo Starr and turned into the mega-platinum recording artist known collectively as The Beatles. I suppose I’m skipping a lot, but I also want to mention that Beatles producer George Marin said “that’s a first rate guitar” in reference to Harrison’s playing when hearing it for the first time.
Fast forward a few years and George Harrison gets into Indian music — especially playing the sitar. For most of us, myself included, “Norwegian Wood” (This Bird Has Flown)” was our first real exposure to the exotic sounding instrument. Here’s an interesting demo or working version of the tune.
I’ve read a few things about the song “Norwegian Wood.” I think you have to give The Beatles some creative kudos for all that’s happening in it: telling a story, Everly Brothers style harmony, the use of sitar, and it’s all done within a very short time frame. It’s a pretty unique piece of music.
If memory serves me correctly, Harrison was turned onto Indian music while filming The Beatles’ film “Help!” and got connected with sitarist Ravi Shankar. Following their exposure to sitar, other bands hopped on the sitar/Indian kick and launched the “raga rock” thing with songs like “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones.
There are a few Harrison compositions which went deeper into the Indian vibe like “Within You, Without You” and “The Inner Light”, both great songs in their own right. Years later, The Concert for Bangladesh was another exposure to both Shankar and Indian sitar music for me. After Harrison’s death, The Concert for George also featured Indian music including Shankar’s daughter Anoushka on sitar. Harrison’s son, Dhani, also played guitar in the same concert lineup. According to Wikipedia, Dhani ,”is named after the sixth and seventh notes of the Indian musical scale, dha and ni.”
I could spend some time describing what a sitar is and other music instruments, but I will leave those searches up to you. The only thing left to say is Ravi Shankar is also the father of musician Norah Jones.
Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!