He was generally unknown outside of India until the musician George Harrison, a member of The Beatles, began experimenting with the sitar in 1965. The two eventually met due to this common interest and became close friends, and that in turn gave Shankar worldwide fame as Harrison's mentor.
This development greatly expanded his career, as he was invited to play in venues that were unusual for a classical musician like himself such as the 1967 Monterey Music Festival; this took place in Monterey, California, about 100 miles south of San Francisco.
Since then, he has maintained a steady and acclaimed career as a musician and recording artist. The classical composer Philip Glass acknowledges Shankar as a major influence. The two have collaborated, producing a recording of joint compositions called Passages.
Ravi Shankar has written two concertos for sitar and orchestra, violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal, music for Hosan Yamamoto, master of the Shakuhachi and Musumi Miyashita - Koto virtuoso.
He has composed extensively for films and ballets in India, Canada, Europe and the United States, including Charly, Gandhi and the Apu Trilogy. Ravi Shankar is an honourary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a member of the United Nations International Rostrum of composers.
He has received many awards and honours from his own country and from all over the world, including fourteen doctorates, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammys, the Fukuoka grand Prize from Japan, the Crystal award from Davos, with the title 'Global Ambassador' to name some. In 1986 he was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of Parliament. His recording "Tana Mana", released on the private Music label in 1987, brought Mr. Shankar's music into the "New age" with its unique method of combining traditional instruments with electronics.
He currently resides in Encinitas, California.
His daughters Anoushka Shankar and Grammy winner Norah Jones are also musicians. Sitarist Ananda Shankar is also his nephew.