HOW I MET GEORGE HARRISON
In the mid-1960s I was a Canadian student at the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. I had a keen interest in music, particularly the British invasion led by the Beatles, and for fun I played guitar in a small rock band. I was also developing an interest in Eastern music and philosophy, in part inspired by George Harrison of The Beatles, who was studying East Indian music with classical sitarist Ravi Shankar.
In early August 1967, a concert of Indian music was to take place at the Hollywood Bowl featuring Ravi Shankar, and word got round that George Harrison was in L.A and would be there. I decided to go, too, and with any luck I might get to see my favourite Beatle.
The day of the concert I drove to Los Angeles in mid-afternoon, straight to the Bowl, and, security not being like it is these days, I was able to hang around as a photographer until concert time, but there was no sign of the Beatle. When the music started I was out front taking pictures from the edge of the stage. Just before the intermission I felt a burly hand on my shoulder and a man with a thick British accent said, “Mr. Harrison would like you to come back stage during the intermission and get some pictures of him with the Indian musicians.”
It seems hard to imagine today that there wasn’t a mob of paparazzi lurking in the shadows, but evidently, at the time, I was the only person there with a camera. So that’s how I ended up in a dressing room at the Hollywood Bowl with George Harrison and his wife Patti Boyd, along with Ravi Shankar, tabla player Allah Rakah, shehnai player Besmilla Kahn, sarod virtuoso Ali Akbar Khan, and other accomplished classical East Indian musicians.
In his 2020 biography of Ravi Shankar, Indian Sun, author Oliver Craske comments that because there were no other cameras backstage, my photograph is “not what it seems.” He notes that “usually a photograph from 1967 featuring a Beatle surrounded by other people exists because they wanted their picture taken with him. But here it was George Harrison who wanted to be pictured with his new heroes.”
Also there was Ravi Shankar's manager, Jay K. Hoffman, of New York, who gave me his contact info and ordered a set of prints. I kept in touch with Mr. Hoffman, and the following January, in Japan on my way to India, I received a telegram from him, asking if I’d like to meet up with a movie crew in Calcutta and shoot stills for a film they were making about Ravi Shankar and the music of India. Over the next month and a half I saw a lot of India and heard a lot of amazing music. The film, entitled “Raga,” was released in 1971.
I saw George Harrison twice more: in Bombay during work on the film, and a year later in London, England, at the Beatles’ Apple Studios. George was at the piano teaching Joe Cocker Paul McCartney's song, "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” which appeared on Cocker’s second album.