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Late Indian Music Legend Ravi Shankar Served As City College Prof In 1960s

Ravi Shankar

Indian sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar (R) and his daughter Anoushka Shankar (L, background) perform at the Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata on February 7, 2009. (Credit: DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The late Indian music virtuoso Ravi Shankar taught as a visiting professor at the City College of New York at the height of the hippie era during the 1960s.

Shankar died in San Diego on Tuesday, near his home in Southern California, at the age of 92. The musician’s foundation issued a statement saying he had suffered upper respiratory and heart problems, and had undergone heart valve replacement surgery last week, CBS News reported.

In 1967, Shankar taught the course “Introduction to Oriental Music” at City College. At the time, Shankar was already in the midst of a worldwide surge of popularity among youth – particularly for his association with George Harrison of the Beatles — but the City College course was strictly focused on his craft, the New York Times reported at the time.

That adoration was as strong among the New York City counterculture community as anywhere.

“‘Daffy over Ravi?’ asks an ad in the East Village Other,” Elenore Lester wrote in the New York Times at the time. “Then quick, cut out the coupon, and ‘We’ll send you, not the personal daily diaries of Patty, Maxine or Laverne, but a beautiful four-color 12 x 12 photo of Ravi Shankar.”

But Shankar’s two-credit City College course had “no place for curiosity seekers or psychedelic voyagers,” Lester wrote. Rather, Shankar’s mission was to teach the 40 undergrad students and 24 grad students the history and principles of Indian classical music, and there were papers, a singing test and a written exam.

Shankar told Lester in the 1967 article: “I am hurt by the association of drugs with our music. Our music is very pure. It is religion, the quickest way to reach God. I don’t like someone to sit glassy-eyed at my concerts listening through a haze of his own world. All I ask is a few hours of sobriety and clear-headedness.”

Shankar was born in 1920 in Vanarasi, India. He began collaborating with, and teaching, some of the greats of western music as early as the 1950s — including violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, CBS News reported.

He was launched to global stardom in the 1960s due to his relationship with Harrison, and in 1971 joined Harrison in organizing the Concert for Bangladesh – two iconic benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden that also featured Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Indian music legend Ali Akbar Khan.

To later generations, Shankar was known as the estranged father of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Norah Jones.

His last musical performance was with his other daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar Wright, in Long Beach, Calif., last month, CBS News reported.

If you had been a college student in 1967, would you have taken Shankar’s course (or did you?) Leave your comments below…