The whole “sitar in rock music” thing started with, guess who, George Harrison playing it on Norwegian Wood, and from there the Beatles released a number of other songs based around the sitar. Of course I’ll share some of those, but there are a few songs by other artists I know and love that feature a sitar in some way on them, so I’ll share those as well. I hope you enjoy!
Norwegian Wood- The Beatles
This is where it all started! George wasn’t a very experienced sitar player when he played it on this song, but the point of the sitar is made. Also, this song is just beautiful. John is sometimes labeled as the harsh, cynical Beatle, but he really had a knack for writing beautiful, emotional songs like this.
Love You To- The Beatles
A fantastic song on Revolver, written by George. The intro to this is stunning, and I wonder how on earth George even came up with it. I guess it’s called “being a songwriter in the most creative band in the world.”
Within You Without You- The Beatles
This song is absolutely amazing!!! The sitar is front and center here, and this is the kind of song that is best listened to in bed at night. No distractions, so you can get the full effect of how brilliant it is. In fact, I think it’s arguably the best song on the Sgt. Pepper album. Yes, I know A Day In The Life is on there as well, but this is just my opinion.
The Inner Light- The Beatles
This is not one of the more well-known Beatles songs, but I think it’s a beautiful song in its own right. Or as John would say, In His Own Write.
(the title of John’s 1st book, published in 1964, was In His Own Write. Random Beatle factoid of the day!)
I think you get the gist of Beatles sitar songs. On to other artists!
Holiday Inn- Elton John
Honestly, Elton John is about the last artist I’d expect to feature a sitar on one of his songs, so imagine my delight when I first heard this song! I absolutely love this song, and when it gets stuck in my head, it stays there for days. This song also features fantastic mandolin playing by Elton’s guitarist at the time, Davey Johnstone. All in all, a delightful song from one of my favorite Elton albums, Madman Across The Water.
Paint It Black- The Rolling Stones
This was released during the Stones’ psychedelic period, and while it’s clearly inspired by the work of the Beatles not too long before, it’s definitely a great song.
The Devil’s Been Busy- The Traveling Wilburys
Guess what? George is back!
This song, released on the Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 album, has a lovely sitar solo, but some of the melody of that solo isn’t actually original. I don’t know if the Wilburys did this on purpose or not, but the beginning of this sitar solo sounds an awful lot like the melody from Paul McCartney and Wings’ song, “Jet”. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but considering that Paul and George were Beatle bandmates for about 13 years, I think otherwise!
Besides the sitar element, I think this is one of the best Wilburys songs. It’s a great song, through and through.
When We Was Fab- George Harrison
This isn’t really a “sitar song”, but it does have a cool little sitar bit right at the end. I mostly included it because I love the really weird, Monty Python-esque video that accompanies it! George apparently has 6 more arms than I thought he did! Jeff Lynne (who produced the album, Cloud Nine), Elton John (who played electric piano on this album), Phil Collins, and Ringo Starr all appear in it. See if you can spot them all in the video!
Anyway, it’s just a cool, trippy, very Beatlesque song.
I think that’s enough sitar talk for one day. Have a fab weekend!