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John McLaughlin (1942- )

John McLaughlin (born January 4, 1942), also Mahavishnu John McLaughlin is a jazz fusion guitarist and composer from Doncaster, Yorkshire in England. He played with Tony Williams's group Lifetime and then played with Miles Davis on his landmark electric jazz-fusion albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew His 1970s electric band, The Mahavishnu Orchestra performed a technically virtuosic and complex style of music that fused eclectic jazz and rock with eastern and Indian influences. His guitar playing, includes a range of styles and genres, including jazz, Indian classical music, fusion and Western Classical music, has influenced many other guitarists. He has also incorporated Flamenco music in some of his acoustic recordings.

My Goal's Beyond [1971 album] was inspired by McLaughlin's decision to follow the Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, to whom he had been introduced in 1970 by Larry Coryell's manager. The album was dedicated to Chinmoy, with one of the guru's poems printed on the liner notes. It was on this album that McLaughlin took the name "Mahavishnu."

McLaughlin's 1970s electric band, The Mahavishnu Orchestra included violinist Jerry Goodman (later Jean-Luc Ponty), keyboardist Jan Hammer (later Gayle Moran and Stu Goldberg), bassist Rick Laird (later Ralphe Armstrong), and drummer Billy Cobham (later Narada Michael Walden). The band performed a technically virtuosic and complex style of music that fused eclectic jazz and rock with eastern and Indian influences. This band established fusion as a new and growing style within the jazz and rock worlds. McLaughlin's playing at this time was distinguished by fast solos and exotic musical scales.

In 1973, McLaughlin collaborated with Carlos Santana, also a disciple of Sri Chinmoy, on an album of devotional songs, Love Devotion Surrender, which included recordings of Coltrane compositions including A Love Supreme.

After the first reincarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra split, McLaughlin worked with the far more low-key, acoustic group Shakti. This group combined Indian music with elements of jazz and thus may be regarded as a pioneer of world music. Mclaughlin had already been studying Indian classical music and playing the veena for several years. The group featured Lakshmirnaraya L. Shankar (violin), Zakir Hussain (tabla), Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram (ghatam) and earlier Ramnad Raghavan (mridangam). John was the first westerner to attain any acclaim performing Indian music for Indian audiences.

from :

Around this time, McLaughlin [1970] became involved with the mystic and spiritual leader Sri Chimmony, and applied his teachings to Christianity, thus creating an East-meets-West dynamic. Chimmony gave McLaughlin his nickname, “Mahavishnu,” name of the Hindu god of sustence (Mandel 1999: 78). He adapted [sic - adopted?] the diet of a strict vegetarian, did not smoke or drink, and dressed in Indian garb: atypical for any popular musician

from - an article on Rick Laird, bassist with the Mahavishnu orchestra:

Rick was immediately impressed with McLaughlin's discipline and commitment to self-improvement. John had become a vegetarian, had given up smoking, and was studying with his guru, Sri Chinmoy. "He had incredible energy; he was full-force all the time," Laird recalls.

from a review on

There is nothing fleeting about John Mclaughlin's interest in the religion, culture and music of India, his head being turned eastwards first by Graham Bond in the early 1960's, "He was interested in the invisible things in life. He introduced me to a book about ancient Egyptian culture, and I got very interested in this because, for the first time in my life, I realized that a human being is much more than meets the eye". He searched for literature in the London library of the Theosophical Society, which informed him about India, eastern philosophy, and yoga and formed friendships with like-minded musicians, for example, sitting in on The Koan for Big Jim Sullivan's Sitar Beat back in 1967. Yoga was an important focus after his move to New York in 1969, by which time John McLaughlin had a good understanding of the Carnatic and Hindustani schools of Indian music. Guesting on Rawalpindi Blues on Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill was probably coincidental, but continued interest arose from reading the Sufi messages of Hazrat lnayat Khan and via the personal teachings of Sri Chinmoy and Ravi Shankar. Although his playing in the Mahavishnu Orchestra and with Carlos Santana on Love, Devotion and Surrender was largely inspired by John Coltrane's search for extended solo forms derived from raga structures, it was not until frequenting an Indian restaurant for vegetarian food in 1971/2 John McLaughlin met and played with Indian musicians. . .


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