Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

 April, 7 1920 – December 11, 2012

Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar
photo from: http://commonconstitutionalist.com/tag/george-harrison/

 


Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

First a dancer


                A professional dancer until age 18 with his brother, Uday, Ravi Shankar turned to the sitar in 1938. In 1956, the New York Times referred to Shankar as “one of India’s most famous performers on the sitar.” Two years later, it said, “The classical music of India, one of the world’s great cultural treasures, has so far been little known outside the frontiers of that country.” In 1961, he was still, “an artist of a cultural tradition alien to our own.” That would all change.


Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

Met the Beatle 


                   Shankar was already 46 years old and playing the sitar for 28 years when in September, 1966 23-year-old Beatle George Harrison went to India to study sitar with him. The Byrds had introduced Harrison to the sitar because they and Shankar recorded at the same American studios. Harrison included the instrument when recording the Lennon-McCartney composition Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) for the 1965 Rubber Soul album.


Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

Beatle boost


                  Beatle fame was a golden touch to any who felt its imprimatur and the renown of Shankar, a reluctant recipient, spread quickly. In 1967 he became the Buell G. Gallagher Visting Professor at City College (NYC). His performance at the Lincoln Center was called the “most in event of the ’67 season”  with the audience overflowing onto the stage. The same happened again in September. The Mamas and the Papas, organizers of the Monterrey Pop Festival in June 1967, invited Shankar who opened the third night. [In 1967, the New York Times carried ten articles about Shankar.]


Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

Woodstock


                  Shankar did not need Woodstock to permanently sculpt his name into stone for young music fans. George Harrison and the other Beatles had already done that. Harrison and Shankar’s continued friendship kept that fame dust-free. If Michael Lang couldn’t get the Beatles to play at Woodstock, having their good friend play was a wonderful alternative and let “true” fans know that the festival was going to be extraordinary.


Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar

World music


                 In a modern media sense, Harrison and Shankar invented “world music.” Suddenly, listeners were no longer limited to local music. Access to all kinds of music became not just easier but part of music in general.


Ravi Shankar

Thank you

Sitarist Humanitarian Ravi Shankar
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Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

April 7, 1948 — January 18, 2015

Dallas Taylor Prisoner of Woodstock
Dallas Taylor Photo by Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Dallas Woodrow Taylor, Jr


Dallas Woodrow Taylor Jr. was born in Denver and raised in San Antonio.


When he was about 10  his mom brought him to see the “The Gene Krupa Story” movie. It inspired his musical choice and his course in life was set.


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Clear Light


For better and worse from there, Taylor’s path to fame and infamy was similar to the one that many have shared. He dropped out of high school at 16 and headed for Hollywood. In 1966 he helped form the psychedelic band Clear Light. A good example of their style is their song “Mr Blue” a cover of folk singer Tom Paxton’s song.



The band released one album, still considered an underground classic of the psychedelic genre.


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Crosby, Stills and Nash


In 1969 Dallas Taylor became the drummer for the recently formed group that David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills had formed. As part of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Taylor liked to say that he made his first million — and his last million — by the time he was 21.


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Road too often taken


The band played the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and went on, as you already know, to phenomenal success. That success included the availability of various pharmaceuticals that Taylor tried and became addicted to. Those addictions led to behavior that even the Who’s drummer Keith Moon warned Taylor about.


C, S, N, & Y fired him, but he did later become the drummer for Still’s band Manassas. 


He described his downfall this way: “I was one of the lucky ones. I managed to destroy my music, but none of my suicide attempts worked.”


In 1990, he told People magazine, ““I was more famous as a junkie than a drummer.”


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Counselor and Author


Eventually  achieving sobriety, Taylor became a drug counselor and in 1994 wrote a memoir entitled Prisoner of Woodstock.  Former band mate and famous addict himself David Crosby wrote in the book’s introduction, “There are a whole list of mistakes, peripheral traps that pull you away from the central and only important concern — music, Money, glory, fame, sex, adulation, peer group approval, competition and one’s own emotional baggage all distract you from your original purpose. As far as I know, Dallas didn’t miss any of these mistakes. They crept up on him, and jerked the rug out from under him, and derailed him and almost killed him.


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

Declining Health


Taylor himself wrote: “I understand what it is like to be an angry, depressed addict who needs so badly to be liked that he gets on stage and sweats and bleeds and hopes that people will somehow connect.


“But as addicts whose only real happiness is being high–whether it’s on dope or music, writing, acting or painting–success becomes our worst enemy. When self-hatred runs so deep, it is never alleviated by fame or wealth.”


He finally got sober in 1985, but in 1989 doctors diagnosed terminal liver disease. In 1990 he had a liver transplant.


In 2005, his wife Patti McGovern-Taylor donated a kidney for Taylor.


Dallas Taylor Woodstock Prisoner

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Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

April 7, 1938 – January 11, 2004

Woodstock alum
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee

Sound clip: “A Small Package of Value Will Come To You, Shortly” from After Bathing At Baxter’s by Jefferson Airplane written by Dryden

Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden


Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Not the first


                  Spencer Dryden was not the Jefferson Airplane’s first drummer. Spencer Dryden was not the Jefferson Airplane’s last drummer. But Spencer Dryden was the Airplane’s drummer.


                Born in New York City, Dryden grew up in Los Angeles where his father often brought him to jazz clubs. Jazz was Dryden’s first love and drums his choice of instruments.


Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Peanut Butter Conspiracy


               Like many young musicians of the early 60s, the writing on the wall said Beatlemania rock and the emerging folk-rock was the writing on the wall and Dryden became part of the Ashes (later known as the Peanut Butter Conspiracy).


              When Skip Spence (guitarist who played drums for the Airplane and guitar again for Moby Grape) left the Airplane to form Moby Grape, Dryden was asked to step in. When Dryden arrived in San Francisco he was surprised and accepting of the communal atmosphere he found in Haight-Ashbury.


Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Skip Grace


            Fortunately for the Airplane (and Dryden), they’d also lost their lead singer (Signe Toly Anderson) at the same and in came Grace Slick.


               Dryden and Slick formed an unofficial pact that helped drive the Airplane’s musical direction. Along with the other members their first album together was 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow, one of the most famous and well-respected albums in rock.


Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden
cover of Surrealistic Pillow
Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Spencer Dryden


                   The late 60s carried Dryden and the Airplane along for an amazing ride. The Monterrey Pop Festival (1967) and both Woodstock Music and Art Fair and Altamont in 1969.


                 Here is the Airplane doing Somebody to Love from the sunrise serenade it provided that hazy Sunday morning in August 1969. Dryden’s drums highlight the song’s drive.



Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Grounded


                The pressures of success combined with the resources success provided hobbled Dryden. Unpredictable behavior led to difficulties with the band. The group “released” him in early 1970.


                Dryden did not leave music. From the Airplane he joined the New Riders of the Purple Sage.


Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden

Continued to be active 


            From All Music: “Dryden was enough of a fixture on the San Francisco scene that he was asked in to various combos of veteran Bay Area players during the ’80s, including the Dinosaurs, whose members included veterans of such bands as Country Joe & the Fish, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service, and played on one of Barry Melton’s albums as well. He was the only member of the classic lineup not to participate in the Jefferson Airplane’s 1989 reunion tour and album, though he was present in 1996 for the group’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”


Dryden died of colon cancer on January 11, 2004.


Airplane Drummer Spencer Dryden
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