Friday, July 24, 2015

Hippies vs. Punks: Ravi Shankar

It has been a strange week. The sizable crew of painters who have been working on the exterior of the apartment building for weeks finally arrived to the north side where my studio is located. They use diesel telescopic booms. From Monday on my windows have been masked with milky polyethylene plastic sheeting and brown paper. So when I arrive home after work it has been like stepping into a spider's cocoon, dark and stuffy.

At the same time I have been preparing for a job interview, actually interviewing, and then waiting to hear if I would receive a job offer. I did, which then created another cycle of adrenaline as I submitted two-week's notice to the office manager at the local.

Waking up every morning in the midst of this I needed something sonically different, something calming but nutritious. By happenstance I lighted on my collection of Ravi Shankar records.

Listening to Hindustani classical Indian music turned out to be just the thing I needed.

Of course Ravi Shankar played an enormous role in the definition of Hippie culture. He was present at the creation when the Summer of Love kicked off at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967.

And he and George Harrison pioneered the superstar blow-out benefit rock concert with The Concert for Bangladesh the summer of 1971.

But critical for Hippies vs. Punks is his role in the Dark Horse Tour with Harrison in November and December of 1974. The concerts were savaged in the music press. Shankar suffered a heart attack and Harrison lost his voice. To me it is a critical moment in the expiration of the Hippie. If the Manson Family and Altamont hadn't killed off the Hippie at the end of 1969, since the massification of bohemia along Hippie lines proceeded apace all during the early 1970s, by the beginning of 1975, given the stillbirth of the first tour of the U.S. by a Beatle since 1966, it was clear the Hippie had run out of juice.

This photo from the Dark Horse Tour of Harrison and Shankar in the White House with Gerald Ford (Billy Preston to the left of Harrison) sums it all up. The president who pardoned Nixon (thereby preventing a necessary airing of a dangerously corrupt system) and who presided over the fall of Saigon yuks it up with the coked out peddler of "Krishna Consciousness." Is there a more fitting bon voyage to the Hippie?

Nonetheless Ravi Shankar's recordings are a goldmine. The ragas are particularly rejuvenating:

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