Every time you listen to George Harrison's exotic sitar on the Beatles' 1965 single "Norwegian Wood," you're hearing the direct influence of Pandit Ravi Shankar on Western pop music.
Mr. Shankar, who died Tuesday at 92 after heart-valve replacement surgery, was the world's most famous ambassador of Indian music. No one has done more to bring the Eastern genre to listeners in this hemisphere.
Long before the "quiet Beatle" knew what a sitar was, Mr. Shankar had made a name for himself with recitals in the USSR in 1954 followed by performances in Europe and the United States in 1956 and Japan in 1958.
Appearances at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals put Mr. Shankar on the counterculture map in the late 1960s, but it was his performance at the Concert for Bangladesh that established the sitar-playing mentor and friend of the Beatles as a star. His sensuous, hypnotic strumming opened millions of ears to the beauty of India's musical heritage.
When he wasn't recording his own music, Mr. Shankar composed soundtracks for films. Western classical music fans know Mr. Shankar's work from his collaborations with Philip Glass, Yehudi Menuhin, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Hozan Yamamoto.
Locally, Mr. Shankar's music is often featured on the long-running Sunday night radio program "Music from India" on 90.5 WESA. The Pittsburgh region's growing South Asian population should know it isn't alone in noting the passing of one of the most influential musicians of our time.