Ravi Shankar Didn't Like Stoners

In the winter of 1967-68, I went to a Ravi Shankar concert in Boston. The auditorium was packed with aficionados of Indian classical music, curiosity seekers, trend followers, and a boatload of hippies and rock fans. Nine of ten, I would estimate, were under 30, and most of them inhabited the new landscape called "counterculture." Without trying, and with considerable reluctance, Shankar had become a superstar, having made his historic appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival that June, at the onset of the Summer of Love, and his festival-ending performance had blown thousands of minds.

Before starting that Boston performance, Shankar addressed the audience. He said he'd learned that young people were taking drugs before coming to his concerts, thinking they would appreciate the music more if they were stoned. He did not like that idea. About 48 at the time, and therefore an elder, he said we should come to the music with clean nervous systems, and if we wanted to expand our minds we should do so with meditation and yoga. You could practically hear a collective "bummer" emanating from the minds of the disappointed.

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