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Sunday, March 02, 2008
"Maharishi — what have you done? You made a fool of everyone."
That was the opening line of a sarcastic song about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who died on Tuesday, February 26th, that John Lennon wrote in 1968, not long after the Beatles abruptly left the maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh, India, and declared themselves no longer his spiritual disciples. It wasn't released that way. (He supposedly hit on Mia Farrow who was traveling with the Beatls in India.) In the end the other Beatles, particularly George Harrison, argued that whatever disagreements they had with the maharishi, his work demanded respect, and it was unfair (and perhaps libelous) to be so blunt.
Lennon retreated, changing the song's title, and the references to the maharishi in its lyrics, to "Sexy Sadie," the form in which it can be heard on "The Beatles," commonly called the White Album.
"Sexy Sadie," for all its implicit anger, was part of a huge trove of songs Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison wrote during and just after their visit to Rishikesh. Whatever shortcomings the Beatles' interaction with the maharishi may have had, the experience — which lasted only eight months, from August 1967 to April 1968 — seems to have opened a floodgate of creativity and got them out of what threatened to be a creative rut.
Read the whole International Herald Tribune article.
In Paul Mcartney's biography, "Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now" Paul says that a Greek character named Magic Alex was accepted as by John as "The Beatle's Guru." But after the Beatles met Maharishi, Alex's Guru status was threatened. When the Beatles went with Maharishi to India, Alex, burning with envy went there and began instigating to separate Maharishi from the Beatles.
It was Alex's accusations and conspiratorial activities that turned the Beatles against the Maharishi. Alex was later exposed as a fraud. In Paul's own words,"It turned out that Alex had a subscription to Scientific American and we didn't, so he was able to wow us with common knowledge." "It was Magic Alex who made the original accusation and I think it was completely untrue."
Another cool fun fact: Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, was also there, and her experience led Lennon to write "Dear Prudence."