Pandit claimed to have been born in Delhi to a French mother and a Brahmin father associated with Nehru’s government. He said he had emigrated to the US at 12. In 1995, he explained his musical philosophy to an interviewer from the journal Incredibly Strange Music. “As with Gandhi, my goal is to bring love and understanding to all people and to eliminate all these different systems of caste, countries and borderlines that are destroying the world,” he said. He said that his music was based on transcending differences. “I didn’t do a European’s version of a Hindi number or a Chinese version of a French number but I tried to capture the true feeling of every song I played so that people would recognise it as their own music.”
Two years after he died in 1998, Los Angeles magazine revealed that Pandit had actually been born John Roland Redd in St Louis, Missouri. In 1939, his sister Frances Redd appeared in a film called Midnight Shadow, with a central character named Prince Alihabad. The turban Pandit wore for the TV show bore a remarkable resemblance to Alihabad’s headgear in the film.
The revelations did nothing to tarnish his reputation. Instead, they earned Pandit a posthumous second wind. This brief bio explains why.