He first met George Harrison and Paul McCartney of the Beatles in 1966, in London. Harrison took up the sitar and went to India for a period of intensive study. It was from this partnership that Shankar Family & Friends was born.
Performances at the great pop festivals of the time – Monterey, California, in 1967; Woodstock in 1969; and Concert for Bangladesh, New York, in 1971 – established Shankar as a pioneer of crossover sounds.
His Kinnara School of Music functioned both in Mumbai and Los Angeles.
Though Shankar had many friends and admirers, in India especially there were classical musicians who were envious of his international success and criticised his association with the popular music of the west. His technique was faultless, but his flair for showmanship was resented by some.
Shankar not only transcended culture, race and geography, but also had no difficulty with the generation gap and differences of social class. The flower-power generation and their successors listened to what he had to offer with open minds. He was showered with citations and awards: in 1999 he was appointed a Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), in 2000 a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur in France, and in 2001 an honorary KBE in Britain. In the US he was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In later years he divided his time between California and New Delhi, where the Ravi Shankar Institute of Music and the Performing Arts was the culmination of his lifelong dream. It attracts students from all over the world.