Hare Krishna and the Hit Parade.

Dear Prabhu

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I am engaged in writing a dissertation to conclude my MA in Study of Indian Religions which seeks to reflect upon and analyse the development, from 1969 to the present day, of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in the United Kingdom, ISKCON UK, popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement. This analysis will be conducted with specific reference to several ISKCON inspired ‘hit’ records, which registered significantly in the UK’s commercial popular music charts during this period. These are, in chronological order, ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’ by the Radha Krishna Temple (London) 1969, ‘My Sweet Lord’ by George Harrison 1971, ‘Bow Down Mister’ by Boy George 1991 and ‘Govindam by Kula Shaker 1996. My thesis aspires to engage these chart successes as catalysts to provide periodic windows into an analysis of ISKCON’s development.

I hope that the substance of my research will consist of an analysis of candid responses from devotees regarding their personal experiences and insights on these subjects and to this end I have drawn up the tentative round of questions on the page below. I will be very grateful if you will consider assisting me in one of the following ways:

1) Allow me to record a personal interview with you, I can visit/meet you to do this or I could call you on the phone, skype or ‘chat’ with you on the internet according to your preference and convenience.

2) Send me a written response to some or all of the questions or with any observations of your own which you think will be pertinent to my quest.

3) Let me know of or put me in touch with any devotees you think would make a valuable contribution to this research project.

4) Share with me any archived media sources you know of that might be useful to my understanding or presentation of my subjects.

I will be grateful for any contribution you kindly choose to make and I will fully respect any request on your part for this to remain anonymous should you so desire. My e.mail addresses are bhakti.rasa@yahoo.com and bhakti.rasa.sdg@pamho.net my mobile number is 07958494847 and my Skype id is bhaktirascal. My research deadline is the end of March so I’ll be happy to hear from you in some capacity anytime before then.

(Although this research is specific to the UK I am also keen to receive input from devotees who have pertinent experiences in other locations as ISKCON is after all an interconnected International organisation)



Could you describe when, how and where you first encountered Krishna consciousness and what kind of (service) relationship you have had with ISKCON (UK) over the years? In 1969, ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’ was released as a single on the Beatle’s Apple Records label by Radha Krishna Temple (London), produced by George Harrison it reached number 12 in the UK hit parade. What information or insights can you share about the events or factors leading to this record release and what significances, in your experience or opinion, did it

hold for the development of ISKCON (UK) during that early period?

Two years later in 1971 George Harrison released the album ‘All Things Must Pass’ and from it the single ‘My Sweet Lord’ featuring the chanting of the Maha Mantra topped the UK charts for five weeks and enjoyed similar international successes. How did/do you feel about ‘My Sweet Lord,’ Can you share any recollections of its reception within ISKCON (UK) In contrast to the earlier ‘Hare Krishna Mantra,’ ‘My Sweet Lord’ did not feature ISKCON devotees, but was George’s own performance and production, the musical arrangement was modern and western, it was even successfully sued for plagiarising the Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine’ and the English lyrical content was an expression of devotional feeling with chanting moved to the chorus. In your opinion what are the significances of these distinctions and are you aware of any ways that they reflected upon or influenced ISKCON’s development in the Although ‘My Sweet Lord’ contained the Maha Mantra, George also introduced another Hindu mantra and the Christian chant Hallelujah; what do you think about these inter-faith initiatives, and what in your perspective do they reveal about ISKCON’s negotiation of its

arrival into predominantly secular/Christian host cultures like the UK?

Many artists have recorded versions of ‘My Sweet Lord,’ including Boy George in 1992. Boy George’s cover followed his 1991 release ‘Bow down Mister’ which had reached number 27 in the UK charts. What are your feelings about ‘Bow down Mister’ how do you recall its being received by ISKCON (UK) at the time and by the public at large and how does this compare

with the reception given to George Harrisons ‘My Sweet Lord’?

The immediate context of ‘Bow down Mister’ is Indian and Hindu, is this in your experience or opinion suggestive of significant developments in ISKCON (UK) surrounding this period ‘Bow down Mister’ was released under the group name ‘Jesus Loves You’ rather than Boy George’s solo name and the song features a black gospel choir harmonising a typical Christian spiritualist chorus line interspersed with the Maha Mantra what is your perception of this inter-faith theme and does it correlate with any parallels in ISKCON (UK) at the time? Boy George came to fame by challenging rigid gender roles as a cross dressing artist.

Please comment upon whether you feel ISKCON (UK) has been well balanced in its treatment of female and male devotees in ascribing their respective roles and rights? Are there to your knowledge any features of, or elements associated with Gaudiya

Vaishnavism which may resonate with people interested in cross dressing?

Boy George is a self confessed bi-sexual and has been an active equal rights campaigner for Gay people, in this connection some of the lyrical content of ‘Bow down Mister’ might be read as double entendre. Do you think ISKCON UK has been or is conscious of this and how comfortably do you think it compares with ISKCON’s perspectives on Gay people and policies towards them? Do you think the general public has also perceived a double

entendre and how do you think this reflects upon ISKCON?

Kula Shakers ‘Govindam’ mirrored 1969’s ‘Hare Krishna Mantra,’ by lyrically consisting entirely of repeated Sanskrit mantras, the musical platform, however was western hard rock fused with an eastern flavour provided by tabla drums and female backing vocals. Would you agree (or not) that this retrospection of tradition, yet radicalising it musically is suggestive of and coincidental with the emergence of ISKCON’s second generation and if so

what does this signify for ISKCON (UK)?

Although the range of mantras used in ‘Govindam’ clearly have a home in ISKCON, ISKCON’s hallmark the Hare Krishna Mantra itself is conspicuous by its absence. Do you

have any insights regarding this omission?

What can you say about the events and factors leading to ‘Govindam’s’ release and what are your impressions of how it was received by ISKCON (UK) and by the UK public at the Govindam was the second of two hit singles to come from Kula Shaker’s debut album ‘K’, the first being the enigmatically entitled ‘Tattva’; they reached number 7 and 4 in the UK charts respectively. Kula Shaker dedicated the album ‘K’ to Prabhupada, and released it in 1996 the year commemorating Prabhupada’s centennial celebrations. Kula Shaker’s lead singer Crispian later accepted Gaudiya initiation vows but not from a disciple of Prabhupada; what might this indicate, in your view, about developments relating to gurus in the ISKCON ‘My Sweet Lord’ was re-released in 2002 after George’s departure and became again the UK’s number 1 record for a week, in this sense it has become his signature tune; what bearing, in your estimation has George’s identifying with the chanting of Hare Krishna in this

way had on the destiny of ISKCON (UK)?

Do you see ISKCON (UK) playing a continued role in pop culture and do you have any conception of what forms that might take?

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