Kubernik: Yogananda Spiritual Musical to Premiere

Photos by Henry Diltz

In 1974 George Harrison gave a press conference in Beverly Hills at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel that I attended when he was preparing for a U.S. solo tour. George was pelted with questions about the Beatles, his Dark Horse record label and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I published the results in the November 2, 1974 issue of the now defunct Melody Maker.

    On meeting the Beatles Harrison responded, “Biggest break in my career was getting into the Beatles. In retrospect, biggest break since then was getting out of them.”

     Was he ever amazed how much the Beatles still mean to people?

    “Not really. I mean it’s nice. I realize the Beatles did fill a space in the sixties. All the people the Beatles meant something too have grown up. It’s like anything you grow up with you get attached to things.

    “I understand the Beatles in many ways did nice things and it’s appreciated the people still like them. They want to hold on to something. People are afraid of change. You can’t live in the past.”

      George Harrison cited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his visit to India with the Beatles and friends in 1967.  

    “I have a lot of respect for him. He gave me help and plugged me in to a method of being able to contact that reservoir of energy which is within us all. Pure consciousness. I experienced it. He showed me how to reach that. Everything else is just words, beyond the intellect is to have an experience you have to have in order to know.”  

    About the role of entertainer in working with causes and charities.

      “I don’t think it’s an entertainer’s job. He does what he can. And I do it through music. It’s not isolated to musicians.” 

   In his 1974 Beverly Hills-based press conference, Harrison itemized the charities he would be working with on his tour that year including, “a concert in Los Angeles for the Self Realization Fellowship. It was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda. He happened to be a big influence in my life. I’d like to repay his in a small way.”

    Paramahansa Yogananda, who was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh, (January 5, 1893-March 7, 1952), was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi and guru whose teachings of meditation and Kiya Yoga reached millions of people through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship. His teachings of yoga provided unity between Eastern and Western religions. During 1925 in Los Angeles, he established an international center for SRF.

   Yogananda’s life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, was initially published in 1946, and expanded by him in subsequent editions. It’s been a perennial best seller having sold millions of copies, and translated into many languages.  George Harrison would give the book to friends and musical associates.  

    In 1950, Yogananda held the first Self-Realization Fellowship World Convocation at the international headquarters in Los Angeles. He also dedicated the beautiful SRF Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, that has since become one of California's most prominent spiritual landmarks.

      By the late sixties, Elvis Presley was looking for a new spiritual and musical road map just before his memorable Elvis…’68 Comeback Special done at NBC studios. At this time Presley was now preparing for a life and a potential career renaissance.  Elvis, often with pals in town, or driving himself in Hollywood and Beverly Hills could on occasion be seen buying copies of the weekly underground newspaper The Los Angeles Free Press at the lip of the entrance to Laurel Canyon on Sunset Blvd. or with his entourage ordering food to go from Greenblatt’s Delicatessen. 

    Elvis Presley had visited Self-Realization Fellowship center on Sunset Blvd. near the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California and devoured Autobiography of a Yogi from the movement’s founder, Paramahansa Yogananda. Presley and his wife Priscilla also had a friendship with Daya Mata of the SRF retreat in the Mt. Washington area in East Hollywood.Sir Daya Mata, born Rachel Faye Wright, was President and spiritual head of SRF from 1955 to 2010.

     In Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N’ Roll, by Priscilla, with contributions from Sandra Harmon, Priscilla mentioned her husband’s fascination with spirituality. Elvis made several trips to the Mount Washington retreat for sessions with Daya Mata hoping to attain the highest form of meditation.

    “As Elvis’ fascination with occult and metaphysical phenomena intensified, [his friend] Larry introduced him to the Self-Realization Fellowship Center on Mount Washington, where he met Daya Mata, the head of the center,” Priscilla wrote. “She epitomized everything he was striving to be.” According to Priscilla, “Mata resembled Elvis’ mother, Gladys Presley.” Elvis would call her “Ma.”

     “I have had a wonderful life as a musician and have made many, good, lifelong friends. However, there is a competitive, ruthless quality that comes out when people get close to the Golden Ring. Humility goes out the window, friends become enemies, and one then starts looking over the shoulder for the big stab. I’ve seen it so many times that I expect it more than not. So, in response, I have chosen to live an isolated, quiet existence and now only work with old and trusted friends. I’m not paranoid, it’s just that I now have a way I like to work and find that stress and strain only gets in the way of the music, which of course, is the most important part.”

Chris Darrow

Internationally acclaimed spiritual and meditation teacher, composer and singer Michel Pascal has announced that his brand-new show, Yoganandance – A Musical to Celebrate Yogananda, the pioneering Indian spiritual guru Paramahansa Yogananda, will premiere on Nov. 17, 2022, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

   “This is going to be an experience unlike anything anybody has seen or felt before,” says Pascal, who conceived and wrote the music to the show. “There are many books and documentaries about Yoganada, but our show is something quite special and unique. Yoganandance is a musical celebration of the spirit of Yogananda to engage people to get back to love.”

Harvey Kubernik is the author of 20 books, including Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows published in 2014 and Neil Young Heart of Gold during 2015.   Kubernik also authored 2009’s Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and 2014’s Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972.   Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. In 2021 the duo collaborated on Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child for Sterling/Barnes and Noble.  Harvey and Kenneth co-authored the highly regarded A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival, published in 2011 by Santa Monica Press.

   In November 2006, Harvey Kubernik was invited to address audiotape preservation and archiving at special hearings called by The Library of Congress held in Hollywood, California.  During July, 2017, Harvey was a guest speaker at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Library & Archives Author Series in Cleveland, Ohio discussing his 2017 book 1967 A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love.

    Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s book, Docs That Rock, Music That Matters, featuring interviews with D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Albert Maysles, Murray Lerner, Heather Harris, Steve Binder, Morgan Neville, David Leaf, Dick Clark, Curtis Hanson and Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

    In 2006 Harvey wrote Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music In Film and on Your Screen published by the University of New Mexico Press that spotlighted Andrew Loog Oldham, Ice Cube, Paul Thomas Anderson, Melvin Van Peebles and Steven Van Zandt.

Kubernik’s writings are in several book anthologies, including The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski. Harvey penned liner note booklets to the CD releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, The Essential Carole King, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special, and The Ramones’ End of the Century

  In 2020, Harvey served as a consultant on the 2-part documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time directed by Alison Ellwood debuting on the M-G-M/EPIX television channel.  

    During December 2021, Kubernik was an interview subject and consultant on a documentary, The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival, produced at Varsity Stadium September 13, 1969 in Canada, featuring the debut of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band. Klaus Voorman, Geddy Lee of Rush, Alice Cooper, Shep Gordon, Rodney Bingenheimer, promoter John Brower, and Robby Krieger of the Doors were filmed by director Ron Chapman. Pennebaker Hegedus Films is exec producing. It is scheduled for winter 2022 theatrical release.