martes, 10 de octubre de 2017

John Lennon and India: A love story you probably didn't know

John Lennon, India, 1968
John Lennon and India: A love story you probably didn't know
The iconic musician even wrote and sang an unofficial song for our country, India, India.
Written by Shreya Goswami
October 9, 2017

Picture courtesy: Pinterest/Edna SobolPicture courtesy: Pinterest/Edna Sobol

When you think about John Lennon--the singer-songwriter, co-founder of The Beatles,
 peace activist--do you naturally associate him with India? Perhaps not. And yet, the 
English musical legend had a deep connection with our country, an aspect of his life
 that doesn't get enough attention.

On his 77th birth anniversary, we take a look at Lennon's connection with India, and 
how it was a love story that you should know more about.
The Beatles and Indian spiritualism
As everyone knows, The Beatles were the most commercially successful and 
influential music band of the era of rock. Formed in Liverpool in 1960, the band 
had four members: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo 
Starr. From pop ballads to psychedellic, rock numbers, The Beatles created them 

The members of The Beatles, with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Picture courtesy: Twitter/King Bleu.

If you've noted a definite Indian element in their music, especially since 1965,
it was primarily because of George Harrison. Popularly known as "the quiet Beatle",
this English guitarist embraced Hinduism and had a keen interest in Indian spiritualism
and music. According to Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), Harrison met with a
number of Indian musicians during the shoot of the Beatles' film, Help!, in 1965.
These musicians introduced Harrison to the sitar, which was already gaining popularity
 through remarkable performances by Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitar maestro. Harrison
visited India, learned to play the sitar from Ravi Shankar, and incorporated the
instrument in a number of The Beatles' songs, notably Norwegian Wood and Within
You, Without You. His influence directed the other Beatles towards an exploration
of Indian culture and spiritualism.

John Lennon with the Maharishi in Rishikesh. Picture courtesy: Pinterest/

Enter, the Maharishi
The Beatles, like most rock bands of the era, were looking for a number of ways to broaden their perspective of the world for musical inspiration. John Lennon had always been open about the band's drug use, which, they claimed, helped them create some of their record-breaking numbers. So when Harrison informed them about a lecture by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Transcendental Meditation, they were instantly interested.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney composed many songs during their stay in Rishikesh. Picture courtesy: Pinterest/

Lennon and his friends first met the Maharishi in London, and then went on to attend the seminar in Bangor, Wales, in 1967. While they couldn't attend the full, 10-day seminar due to the sudden passing-away of their manager, Brian Epstein, they kept in touch with the Maharishi. With their rising interest in Indian spiritualism came the offer to stay at the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh in 1968.
Lennon in Rishikesh
Lennon and his bandmates arrived in India in February 1968, with their wives, girlfriends, assistants and a number of reporters. Their stay in the Maharishi's ashram, though not longer than two-three months, is credited to be their most productive phase. Lennon and McCartney co-created a number of their songs there, and so did Harrison. Starr actually created his first song during this stay. The band claimed to have created 48 songs in this phase!

The Beatles, at the ashram in Rishikesh. Picture courtesy: Pinterest/Jay Harbison

Their life in the ashram was similar to the one these places promote. Lennon, who was accompanied by his first wife, Cynthia, indulged in communal dining, vegetarian meals, and yoga. Listening to the sound of the Ganges from the ashram's roof, and playing music, was what The Beatles did as a group on most days.
India, India
Here, Lennon also learned to play the sitar, and mastered a few techniques that he later used in his songs, Julia and Dear Prudence. As later revealed by a number of reporters like Randy Shore, Lennon spent more of his time composing music than meditating. He even created a special song dedicated to the country, and called it India, India.

John Lennon and his wife, Cynthia, at the ashram. Picture courtesy: Pinterest/Hypeness

While the song was never officially released, it remained hidden in Lennon's archives, and was shared with the public only recently. Listen to India, India here:
"India, India, take me to your heart/Reveal your ancient mysteries to me", the song began. It went on to describe the state of calm Lennon experienced while in Rishikesh. India, India also indicated that his marriage with Cynthia Lennon was failing fast. Most people believe that "the girl I left behind" refers to Cynthia, who had hoped that their India trip would rejuvenate the couple's commitment to each other.

John and Cynthia Lennon, with their friends, at the ashram. Picture courtesy: Pinterest/

Despite the creative surge, tensions between The Beatles and the Maharishi increased. The Maharishi asked Lennon to contribute part of the Beatles' profits to the ashram, which obviously gave offense. On the other hand--as the Maharishi's later disciple, Deepak Chopra has claimed--the guru was disappointed with The Beatles members because they continued doing drugs while at the ashram, which was against his principles.
Starr and McCartney had already left the ashram in March, and Lennon didn't find too many reasons to stay back after that, and rounded up his stay within the next six weeks. Soon after his return, Lennon separated from Cynthia, and married Yoko Ono in 1969, thus beginning a new chapter in his life.

The Beatles, with the Maharishi, in Rishikesh. Picture courtesy: Pinterest/Leandro Palanghi

Can a stay of just two-three months in India have been a lifelong source of inspiration for Lennon? Of course, it was. "I've got to follow my heart wherever it takes me/I've got to follow my heart wherever it calls to me", Lennon sang in India, India. And that's precisely what he did, with India in his heart.

1 comentario:

  1. Thank you for sharing this article ... I thoroughly enjoyed it
    Life is a continue dance between mundane and unknown rhythms,
    taking turns leading the way at the heartbeats of our not so educated guesses and whims.