New York: Raven-haired American singer-songwriter Norah Jones, who exploded into the music industry by sweeping eight Grammys in 2003, has always been guarded about her famous father Ravi Shankar and their complicated relationship. She broke her silence following Shankar’s death on Tuesday, saying her father will be “greatly missed.”
Shankar influenced musicians from George Harrison to John Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to David Crosby. He also pioneered the concept of the modern megastar rock benefit with the 1971 “Concert for Bangladesh.” During the height of the counter-cultural music revolution of the 1960s, he also was in the lineup at the Woodstock music festival. But now to most Americans, Shankar is best known as the father of popular singer Jones.
“My dad's music touched millions of people. He will be greatly missed by me and music lovers everywhere," reads the statement Jones issued this morning through her record label.
Jones also talked to CBS News about her dad’s genius: "I remember when I found out that John Coltrane had come to him once to study....That impressed me at the time, more than the George Harrison thing just because I was such a jazz nerd. But you know it's all amazing. He's inspired a lot of musicians."
Shankar had a notoriously complicated private life. In the course of his touring, Shankar had a relationship with concert promoter Sue Jones. The couple, in 1979, had a daughter, Geethali Nora Jones Shankar, better known as Norah Jones. Shankar never married Sue Jones and the affair was short-lived. Jones has always been very guarded about her desultory childhood contact with her famous Indian father.
"I knew who my dad was," she told CBS television anchor Katie Couric on 60 Minutes in 2007.
"I saw him sporadically until I was nine and then I didn't see him again or talk to him until I was 18." Her mother, Jones said, didn’t want her talking about him so it was “kind of a secret.”
"You know, when you have a father who's pretty well known but you don't see him, the last thing you want to do is start talking about him all the time to people."
However, when Jones turned 18 she reached out to her father, who was living in California with his other daughter musician Anoushka Shankar and second wife. When Couric asked Jones if she was angry or sought an apology from her father when they picked up the thread of their relationship after nine years, Jones was candid, "Yeah. I might have. I might have wanted that.”
Jones pointedly thanked her mother when she won multiple Grammys for Come Away With Me in 2003. She said she was raised by a single mom who “sacrificed to give her every opportunity like piano lessons.” She moved to New York from Texas when she was 20 and like most budding musicians in the Big Apple she waited tables and played gigs in jazz clubs. She was only 23 when she became a surprise multiplatinum sensation with her debut Grammy-winning album Come Away with Me which sold over 20 million copies.
In 2005, the man Harrison described as "the godfather of world music" beamed with pride as both his talented daughters, Jones, then 26 and Anoushka who was two years younger, both were nominated for Grammy awards. He was lucky that they had been shortlisted in different categories.
Anoushka got the Grammy nod for the best contemporary world album for Rise while Dreams Come True, a duet that Jones sang with Willie Nelson was nominated for the best country collaboration with vocals.
Shankar himself counted three Grammys among his honors. His album West Meets East, with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, won the 1967 award for best chamber music performance. Shankar shared the 1972 award for album of the year for “The Concert for Bangladesh,” and Shankar’s Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 won the 2001 award for best world music album.
Shankar passed away in San Diego, California, at the age of 92, and his wife of 23 years, Sukanya, and daughter Anoushka have already taken to his official website to mourn their loss.
“We were at his side when he passed away. We know that you all feel our loss with us, and we thank you for all of your prayers. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music,” reads a post.
After a 10-decade career, Shankar's final musical performance was with his second daughter, Anoushka on 4 November, in Long Beach, California.