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India tribute marks Lennon at 70

world Updated: Oct 10, 2010 08:44 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Indian fans of the Beatles have a special reason to rejoice: John Lennon appears to have made amends from beyond the grave for Sexy Sadie, his classic, biting satire about Indian gurus.

On what would have been the much-loved Beatle’s 70th birthday on Saturday — he was assassinated in 1980 — the record label EMI has released India India, a previously unpublished song, as part of a massive 11-CD collection.

India, India, take me to your heart/Reveal your ancient mysteries to me,” implores Lennon in the sugary-sweet and emotional song, recorded in his home studio in 1969.

According to American rock historian Richie Unterberger — author of the award-winning The Unreleased Beatles: Music and FilmIndia India is a highlight of the CD box set.

Lennon’s relations with India are a bit of a mystery to Beatles fans. After visiting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s camp in Rishikesh along with the rest of the Beatles in 1968, he wrote a song which he wanted to call Maharishi.

But his Indophile bandmate George Harrison – possibly alarmed by its words – persuaded him to change the title to Sexy Sadie, and the song was included in the White Album.

The opening line goes Sexy Sadie, what have you done, you made a fool of everyone.

But just a year later, Lennon wrote the lyrical song Across the Universe, with a refrain in Hindi — unprecedented for an English pop song at the time – Jai Guru Deva, a phrase that has been linked to the Maharishi.

Lennon, an atheist, called it the best lyrics he had ever written.

There remains, however, an unresolved piece in Lennon’s Indian jigsaw — a number called The Maharishi Song, sung by John and his second wife Yoko Ono. Recorded at home in 1969, it is described by Unterberger as “vicious” and has never been released.