As a kid growing up in Dagenham, Essex in the 1950s and early 1960s, John Richardson hated ballroom dance music and crooning. But his area at the time had only one radio station, and that was the only type of music it played.
“It just seemed so smug and self-satisfied,” he says. “I needed something more passionate and inspiring. Then I discovered American artists who brought just that—artists like The Everly Brothers, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane and Roy Orbison—and life was worth living again.”
At fourteen, John had an extremely vivid dream in which he saw himself playing an impressive drum solo on a white drum kit.
It had to be an omen. This was it. This was his future. He knew it.
Driven by his passion and love for music, he saved up all his paper-round and milk-delivery money for a whole year, until he had enough to buy a drum kit.
Then, heart pounding, he walked over to the local Music Store.
“Music shops in those days were not the burgeoning cornucopia of musical instruments that they are these days,” he says. “Britain was still in the process of recovery from the war, and the shop had only one of each instrument. That was why I froze when I saw the single, solitary drum kit they had in the corner. It was white.”
Within a year, John was playing with several local groups. Once, when he found himself playing the exact drum solo he had seen in his dream, he knew this was what he was supposed to be doing.
After years of struggling, moving up the ranks from amateur to semi-professional, he finally became a professional session musician.
“I would just turn up at a predetermined recording studio, and play for whoever booked me in whatever style was required,” he recalls. “As I never really knew what was coming each day, it armed me with quite a wide spectrum of drumming skills.”
By the time he was twenty-five, John was playing on many top ten international hits such as Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting, Barry Blue’s Dancing On A Saturday Night, and Stephanie De Skykes’ Born With A Smile On My Face. He also continued to play in bands which found some success including Baskin and Copperfield, with singer Alan Williams.
One day, John was booked by Polydor Records to play the music and contribute backing vocals for a new rock ‘n’ roll single called “Sugar Baby Love,” which songwriters Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington then approached various bands with. When nobody was interested, Bickerton, then head of A&R at Polydor, asked John to form a band—which he gladly did, joining forces with his old bandmate Alan Williams.
The band was called The Rubettes. In 1974 their single “Sugar Baby Love”—which no one had wanted—become a number one hit in the UK and sold three million copies worldwide. The glam rock group went on to release several albums and a slew of other hits including Tonight, Juke Box Jive, I Can Do It, and Baby I Know.
Jayadeva (third from left) and the Rubettes
Three years and twenty million record sales later, however, John had become disenchanted with the music industry and himself. He was living in a big, beautiful house with a swimming pool and tennis courts, his lovely wife Cherrille (now Saci-Mata Dasi), and their two children Pia and Scott (who later became Gaurangi and Siddhartha). But something was missing.
The Rubettes with ABBA
“The external world had failed to live up to its promise of lasting happiness,” he says. “I wanted to focus less on myself and do more to help others. I knew I had to go on an inner search.”
As he began to search for God, John became vegetarian and gave up smoking and drinking. In 1980, he left The Rubettes and opened his own herbal remedy and wholefoods shop in the town of Romford, where he began to practice reflexology, remedial massage, herbal remedies and hypnotherapy, including past-life regression.
One of his first clients for this unique kind of therapy was a young lady with Multiple sclerosis, which affects the brain and spinal chord. When he spoke to her and learned that there had been no clear cause of the disease in her present life, John told her he would take her back to the life where it had originated. During regression, the young woman saw herself as a Native American who was shot in the back. The shock of this trauma, John said, had remained in her system and had manifested in her current life as Multiple sclerosis. Gradually, he helped her release the trauma, and she was cured. She remains free from the disease to this day.
Experiences such as this lead John to the same conclusions about the eternal nature of the soul that Krishna makes in the Bhagavad-gita, and he became more and more attracted to the Vedic teachings. He read Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, as well as The Science of Self-Realization.
“I also began to perform more and more past life regressions, and quickly began to have palpable success in helping folk with many problems and disorders of both mind and body,” he says.
In 1983, John wrote a one-hour “pop opera” on the Bhagavad-gita, which he planned to perform with his children at St. James’s Church in Piccadilly, London.
“We needed costumes for the performance, so I approached the Hare Krishna devotees at ISKCON’s Soho Street temple for costumes,” he says. “And the rest is history!”
John and his wife began to hold “Nama-Hatta” congregational gatherings at their house in Essex, drawing sixty people every week for chanting and a sanctified vegetarian feast. He regularly distributed Srila Prabhupada’s books door to door, and would go chanting on the streets of his local town every Wednesday. In 1989, he cemented himself firmly in his new life, by accepting Harinama initiation from ISKCON guru Sivarama Swami, and receiving the name Jayadev Dasa.
Balancing work and spirituality, he continued to use his musical talents in a more Krishna-centric way, playing drums and singing along with his daughter Gaurangi on Boy George’s 1991 hit “Bow Down Mister,” which featured the Hare Krishna mantra.
He also continued to offer past-life regression therapy, both at his store, Perfect Health, and at Universities all over the UK. He became a regular counselor at Cambridge University, and was voted Healer of the Year in a nationwide poll. His mass past-life therapy sessions became highly popular.
“I would charge a £1 admission fee, so that I could afford to give every participant one of Srila Prabhupada’s books,” he says. “Sometimes I would distribute 200 a night.”
In 1996, Jayadev wrote, scored, and appeared in “Nimai,” an ecological musical highlighting the destruction by land developers of Vrindavana, India, Lord Krishna’s birthplace. The production received enthusiastic reviews from national newspapers such as The Guardian, while its teenage star Parminder Nagra went on to appear in the UK film Bend It Like Beckham and the hit US television show ER.
Over the years, Jayadev also released a number of New Age and World Music albums, showcasing his formidable drumming skills and featuring Native American, Celtic, and Vedic themes.
Finally, in 2000, Jayadev felt ready to rejoin his old bandmates The Rubettes, who tempted him back for a nationwide tour. He’s been playing with them all over Europe since, and is currently on tour, having played Hungary, Russia, France, Latvia, Poland, Scotland and Austria—all in the last three months!
Of course, spirituality is still at the forefront of Jayadev’s life.
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“In between concerts, I try to do some service at ISKCON temples around the world,” he says. “I also participate in Harinama chanting, and give lectures and seminars on healing, sound therapy, chakra balancing, and past life regressions.”
The latest baby Jayadev’s fertile imagination has given birth to is the Mantra Choir, a fascinating and inspirational project in which he can turn any audience into a functioning spiritual choir within minutes.
Out of all the projects he’s done, it’s his favorite. Gathering in a personal, cosy space with his audience, Jayadev will divide them into sections, teaching them any one of a dozen compositions held in his head. He’ll record percussion sounds, vocal harmonies and other musical elements—all created by his audience’s voices—one at a time; then play them back as his “choir” builds another layer. This creates a harmonious and fun spiritual atmosphere, the result of which is a lush, moving track built around mantras such as Nitai Pada Kamala, Jaya Jagannath Swami, Shyam Shyam, and He Govinda.
Jayadev released an entire album of these “A Capella Mantras” last year, dubbed Jayadev and Friends: You Are The Music. His dream is to hold 108 Mantra Choir events around the world, and he’s already well on his way there—past choirs have been held all over the UK, as well as in France, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Russia, and Belgium.
“Although it is thoroughly exhausting, it is also extremely enlivening to see the transformations that a little love and a whole lot of Holy Names can bring to folks out there,” he says. “It’s a massive responsibility to have so many hearts held in my hand at one time or another… But the rewards are so astonishing that it has become both my duty and my strong desire to never give it up—even though I am in my mid-sixties now.”
For more information on Jayadev and his music, please visit www.mantrachoir.com, http://myspace.com/musicofjayadev, or find his You Are The Music album on I-Tunes or Amazon.com. His autobiography, The Beat of Different Drums, can be pre-ordered at http://yoga.supersoul.com, and will be available on Amazon.com in September.