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John Barham

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Title: John Barham  
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Subject: Let It Be, Imagine (album), All Things Must Pass, Jealous Guy, Living in the Material World, My Sweet Lord, Wonderwall Music, El Topo, All Things Must Pass (song), List of Old Harrovians
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John Barham

Template:Dablink John Barham is an English pianist, composer, arranger, producer and educator. After training as a classical musician, notably in the field of Indian classical music, he has worked since the 1960s with a variety of artists, including Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin and Aashish Khan.


Born in London, John Barham studied piano, trumpet and music composition at the Royal College of Music[1] before attending London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Since the 1960s, he has played or collaborated with a number of significant figures in the entertainment industry, including Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin, Phil Spector, John Lennon, Katharine Hepburn, Roger Daltrey, Gene Pitney and Badfinger.[2] Among English classical musicians of the mid 1960s, Barham's piano compositions based on Indian ragas were unprecedented and brought him to the attention of members of India's cultural community in London.[1]

His work with Indian sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar began in June 1966, when Shankar and violinist Yehudi Menuhin's performed together at the Bath Music Festival.[1] A student of Shankar's at the time, Barham transcribed the sitarist's adaptation of Raga Tilang into Western musical annotation for Menuhin's benefit, after Shankar had been dissatisfied with German musician Peter Feuchtwanger's attempt to adapt the same raga.[3] Barham served this role in subsequent East–West collaborations by Shankar,[4] who described him as "a brilliant young pianist".[1]

During this period, Barham met George Harrison through Shankar,[5] who had adopted the Beatles guitarist as his sitar student.[6] In March 1967,[7] Barham attended the recording session for Harrison's second Indian composition, "Within You, Without You", released on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,[8] and he later wrote the choral arrangements for Phil Spector's controversial production of the band's Let It Be tracks "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe".[9] Harrison was fascinated by Barham's interpretation of ragas for piano and based his 1967 song "Blue Jay Way" on a Barham composition derived from Raga Marwa.[10]

Barham's association with Harrison spanned many decades,[1] and included the orchestration of Harrison's most successful work, All Things Must Pass (1970), as well as Wonderwall (1968) and Living in the Material World (1973).[11][12] Barham also worked on Harrison's projects with acts signed to the Beatles' Apple record label – including the 1969 Jackie Lomax single "New Day", Billy Preston's That's the Way God Planned It album (1969), and a musical adaptation of a sacred Hindu poem from the Satya Yuga, "Govinda",[13] which became a hit single for Radha Krishna Temple (London) in 1970. Following the success of All Things Must Pass, Barham contributed to Ronnie Spector's "Try Some, Buy Some" single, John Lennon's song "Jealous Guy" and Gary Wright's album Footprint, all recorded in 1971.[14]

In 1973, Barham released an album with Indian sarod player Aashish Khan, Jugalbandi, on Elektra Records.[15] His Indian compositions have been featured in BBC documentaries by director Manjira Dhatta. In 2007, Barham worked with Newcastle College in north-east England on a version of "Sail Away", written by Bob Purvis of the band Splinter, to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.[16]

Some of his piano works were first performed and recorded for radio broadcast by late British pianist John Bingham (Reflections and Piano Concerto). Barham's notable students include William Chapman Nyaho.



  • Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976; ISBN 0-345-25680-8).
  • Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003; ISBN 1-86074-489-3).
  • Joshua M. Greene, Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ, 2006; ISBN 978-0-470-12780-3).
  • Peter Lavezzoli, The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, Continuum (New York, NY, 2006; ISBN 0-8264-2819-3).
  • Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
  • Bruce Spizer, The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, 498 Productions (New Orleans, LA, 2005; ISBN 0-9662649-5-9).

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