On Monday, March 22, 2021, Wynne Paris (acclaimed kirtan artist and music producer) suddenly passed away from a heart attack. He leaves behind his parents, Kimberley Maddox (his life partner Kim), a brother- and sister-in-law, William and Kim Paris, nephews Nate and Jack, extended family and global sangha all mourning the loss of one of the Yoga world’s bright lights.
Wynne Paris has a wonderful discography that includes spiritual songs presented in many ways, titles include “Ghandarva Café,” “Emptiness and Ecstasy,” and “Om Spun” all of which feature collaborations with his friends: Rick Allen (Def Leppard), JT John Thomas (Bruce Hornsby), Badal Roy (Miles Davis), Perry Robinson, and too many other nationally treasured talents to list.
He was a collaborator and over his career, musicians included him in their recordings, including the Seminole CD Pilgrim Heart, by his dear friend Krishna Das who credits Wynne for giving him his first invitation to travel to present kirtan. Their relationship blossomed, Wynne organized a band and they traveled; after that band, Wynne played with KD for years as a guest and KD was the first performer at the Lovelight Yoga and Arts Festival.
Wynne was a multi-instrumentalist who formed many bands including Sunshine Deva with his dear friend Mark Karan from Rat Dog Bob Weir’s (of Grateful Dead and Huey Lewis and the News. In the mid-1990s, Wynne became drawn to and began playing more Eastern-influenced music and became a traveler and coordinator of kirtan across the country. He played for and/or recorded with a wide variety of musicians in the rock and roll, folk, and rap genres including Krishna Das, Girish, Bhagavan Das, Guru Ganesha Singh Khalsa, David Stringer, Jim Donovan of Rusted Root, Shahin and Sepehr, Sharon Gannon, David Newman, Wade Morissette, Solé and again, too many others to list; but, who deeply inspired him to stretch his musical knowledge. His devotion to spirit created magical moments included playing on stage with Amma and for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
It was about five years ago, that Wynne and I first connected. He would stop by when he was in Florida and during visits to my home we’d hang out, he’d jam with my husband, and make connections as he was always doing to grow his kirtan kula (community). This was vintage Wynne and who he was and what he did. Everybody has a story or two. Wynne knew so many musicians, yogis, and spiritual seekers and it was through those connections that he founded the Lovelight Yoga & Arts Festival. He even asked Michael Lang, one of the original Woodstock co-founders, to come on board to help vision Lovelight. And Wynne reached out to my Yoga community (Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville/Integral Yoga) to request our participation to open the first Lovelight Festival—in the spirit of our founder, Swami Satchidananda who opened Woodstock in 1969.
As a dedicated activist, he was arrested at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC in an effort to free Tibet. This is what lead him to meet his friend of decades and business partner Michael Lang and, along with Kimberly Maddox, they founded the Lovelight Yoga and Arts Festival which they describe as “Yoga, meets Woodstock and Burning Man.” The festival is a rich tapestry of spiritual wonders and enrichment and has featured national acts such as Krishna Das, Trevor Hall, MC Yogi and Matis Yahoo, original artwork by Peter Max, Jerry Garcia, and Eartha Kitt, and sage teachers including Dharma Mitra and our beloved Swami Asokananda. As Kim Maddox noted, “Integral Yoga’s generous and unwavering support has been a spiritual cornerstone of each Festival.”
He was a master at bringing folks together. His easygoing nature, love of people, openness in constantly seeking the truth, and love of chanting made him the guy you wanted to be around. Even after a business interaction he and I had a few years back that didn’t go so well he was relentless—in a good way—in reaching out, texting, calling and making sure the door was always open to resolution. And it was and we did resolve our issues.
He had taken COVID-19 very seriously, taking all precautions and not touring. He was pretty much homebound for the last year enjoying special time with Kim. Over the last few weeks and months, I had been communicating with him about various things and I can tell you for sure he was anxious to be able to get back out there and begin to play music and chant with his kula at various Yoga festivals and centers. Tragically, that was not to be.
Soon after his passing, I had the privilege to participate in a two-hour Zoom memorial service where all 200+ of us chanted the Maha Mritunjaya Mantra 108 times in his honor and to support his peaceful transition. Many people spoke about his legacy, beautiful heart, and mostly how hard he worked over the years to create our kirtan kula on the East Coast and beyond. Wynne created Lovelight and a huge community of beautiful souls that are now a lifelong sangha due to his efforts.
We never know how long we are intended to be here and when someone leaves us so quickly it gives us pause to reflect, rethink our lives, and our actions. The past year has been a very hard time for so many. Most of us are suffering on some level over something that has changed or been taken away from us. Now it’s Wynne. We don’t have him in the physical form anymore—in his “RV” as Sri Swami Satchidananda would put it—but he will always be a bright part of our spiritual community. He named his festival “Lovelight” and not only will his love and light be remembered, but he will also be forever remembered for spreading love and light to thousands of people.
May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light that’s within you guide your way home… We love you Wynne! Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
About the Author:
Haris Harini Lender is the founder and creator of Kidding Around Yoga, a registered children’s Yoga school with the Yoga Alliance. Originally from New Haven, Connecticut, she is an Integral Yoga® teacher registered at the 500-hour level with YA. She has additional certifications in Raja Yoga, Children’s Yoga, Stress Management and Prenatal Yoga. For eleven years, Haris was the Director of Camp Yogaville, a residential summer camp at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville. While her main home is in Florida, these days you can usually find her in her yurt in Yogaville.