Such Stuff

The numbers must be in the tens of thousands, maybe higher. Although not every squealing Beatlemaniac in the Sixties developed a genuine love of Indian classical music apart from George Harrison's contributions on the Beatles' albums, many did. His three instances of adding sitar (Norwegian Wood, Love You To, and Within You, Without You) only granted a tiny bit of exposure to a music that was so alien to our ears, we either loved it or hated it. Our parents certainly didn't get it.

A great many Beatles fans didn't get it, either, although it didn't really pose any real threat on Rubber Soul's Norwegian Wood. It wasn't until Revolver that pink, teen-aged ears, as yet unpierced, pricked up. Was this a new trend with George? Where does it come from? Will he ever go back to writing songs like I Need You and You Like Me Too Much? And the hair—especially that facial hair—wasn't going to stay, was it? George's sitar was okay for a song or two as long as it remained obediently in the background of Lennon and McCartney's radio hits, but full tracks of Indian music? For the love of God, no. That's not our Beatles.

We were talking about the space between us all,
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion;
Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late, when they pass away.

But some of us loved the hypnotic strangeness of it. Some of us connected with the deeper subject matter. Years after the incense burned out, the flowers wilted, and the Nehru jackets had been donated to charity thrift stores, some of us went on to learn more about, and appreciate, the classical music of India. That's only one of the important influences George Harrison had on the largest generation to ever inhabit our small planet. The other is meditation. Before George, most of us had no idea what it entailed, or what a mantra was. Yoga, meditation, and vegetarianism were things we'd had no contact with and no interest in.

If George's legacy is anything, it's not in his being a Beatle for a few short years. It's in his hunger for spiritual enlightenment and his lifelong search for God. That we were able to follow along as we did, that is, as spectators and fans, is such stuff as karma is made of.

Indian Classical Music on Pandora