Ravindra Shankar Chowdhury was born April 7, 1920, in the Indian city of Varanasi.
At age 10, he moved to Paris to join the world famous dance troupe of his brother, Uday. Over the next eight years, Shankar traveled with the troupe across Europe, America and Asia, and later credited his early immersion in foreign cultures with making him such an effective ambassador for Indian music.
During one tour, renowned musician Baba Allaudin Khan joined the troupe, took Shankar under his wing and eventually became his teacher through 7 1/2 years of isolated, rigorous study of the sitar.
"Khan told me you have to leave everything else and do one thing properly," Shankar said.
In the 1950s, Shankar began gaining fame across India. He held the influential position of music director for All India Radio in New Delhi and wrote the scores for several popular films, including Satyajit Ray's celebrated "Apu" trilogy. He began writing compositions for orchestras, blending clarinets and other foreign instruments into traditional Indian music.
And he became a de facto tutor for Westerners fascinated by India's musical traditions.
He gave lessons to Coltrane, who named his son Ravi in Shankar's honor, and became close friends with Menuhin, recording the acclaimed "West Meets East" album with him. He also collaborated with flutist Jean Pierre Rampal, composer Philip Glass and conductors Andre Previn and Zubin Mehta.
"Any player on any instrument with any ears would be deeply moved by Ravi Shankar. If you love music, it would be impossible not to be," singer David Crosby, a member of the Byrds in the '60s, said in the book "The Dawn of Indian Music in the West: Bhairavi."
Shankar's personal life was a troubled one.
His 1941 marriage to Baba Allaudin Khan's daughter, Annapurna Devi, ended in divorce. Although he had a decades-long relationship with dancer Kamala Shastri that ended in 1981, he also had relationships with several other women in the 1970s.
In 1979, he fathered Norah Jones with New York concert promoter Sue Jones. In 1981, Sukanya Rajan, who played the tanpura at his concerts, gave birth to his daughter Anoushka.
He grew estranged from Sue Jones in the '80s and didn't see Norah for a decade, although they later re-established contact.
He married Rajan in 1989 and trained young Anoushka as his heir on the sitar. In recent years, father and daughter toured the world together.
The statement she and her mother released said, "Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as part of our lives."
Norah Jones became a star and won five Grammy awards in 2003, and Anoushka Shankar was nominated for a Grammy of her own.
Shankar himself won three Grammys and was nominated for an Oscar for his musical score for the epic movie, "Gandhi."
"How does one put the spiritual significance of music on paper?" Shankar once asked. "Different types of music, whether it is vocal or instrumental, Eastern or Western, classical or pop or folk from any part of the world can all be spiritual if it has the power to stir the soul of a person and transcend time for the moment. It makes one get goose-bumps in the body and mind and equates the highest mental orgasm and the release of grateful tears!"