Alice Coltrane spent the mid-Sixties in personal and musical bliss, starting a family with John Coltrane and touring the world as the pianist in his band. But everything changed for her in the summer of 1967, when John died suddenly of liver cancer. Newly widowed at the age of 29, with four children to care for, she plunged into a lengthy period of despair. Sensing her pain, an old friend introduced her to his guru, Swami Satchidananda, who had soothed hundreds of thousands of rock fans with his opening address at Woodstock. With a new clarity — and a harp that John had commissioned for her before his death — she entered the basement studio of her Long Island home and recorded a tribute to Satchidananda.
Featuring other former members of John’s band, the resulting album combined free-form jazz with the textures of Indian raga and shades of Alice’s roots playing gospel in the churches of Detroit. Released a half-century ago this year as Journey in Satchidananda, it firmly established Alice as a musical icon in her own right, and would go on to inspire everyone from Radiohead to Solange Knowles. The latest episode of our Amazon Original podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums retraces the entire arc of this remarkable record: Senior Editor Hank Shteamer steps into the Long Island basement where the album was recorded, and speaks to several musicians who played on it (bassist Cecil McBee, tambura player Tulsi Reynolds, and oud player Vishnu Wood) as well as Alice’s daughter, Michelle. We also hear from musicians who have drawn inspiration from Alice — including Flying Lotus, the grandson of Alice’s sister, and harpist Brandee Younger — and hear archival interviews with Alice herself, delving into the remarkable story of a woman who crafted something beautiful and enduring in the time of her deepest pain.
In 2003, Rolling Stone published its definitive countdown of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the most popular and most argued-over list in the magazine’s history. In 2020, we completely remade the list, adding more than 150 new titles. With the Amazon Original podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, we’re delving further into the making and meaning of many of the records that made the cut, with exclusive insights from the artists who created them — and those who know them and their music best.
Hosted by Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums appears exclusively on Amazon Music, with a new episode appearing each week. Check out the Journey in Satchidananda episode above.