Manzarek of The Doors Dies

A young Ray Manzarek (courtesy of Jan Persson/Redferns/Getty Images)

I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

Ray Manzarek—the legendary keyboardist of one of rock and roll’s greatest bands, The Doors—died in Germany on Monday after a long bout with bile duct cancer. He was 74.

Originally from Chicago—my home town, incidentally—Ray ended up in California during the tumultuous times of the early 1960s. He studied film at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and could easily have enjoyed a long and lucrative career in the movie industry if not for one life-changing event.

In 1965, Ray was walking along Venice Beach and happened upon a long-haired, modern-day poet: the one and only Jim Morrison.

Jim had written some song lyrics, which Ray immediately asked to hear. Against his better judgement—and never really considering himself to be much of a singer—Jim sang the first few lines of what would later become “Moonlight Drive.”

Ray and Jim fooling around (courtesy of Getty Images)

Check out a pretty good performance of this tune live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 by going HERE.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

Together with guitarist Robby Krieger and percussionist John Densmore, Ray and Jim formed The Doors and provided part of the soundtrack from one of the most turbulent eras in modern American history. Songs like “The End,” “People are Strange,” “Love Her Madly” and the quintessential Doors’ hit “Light My Fire”—complete with unmistakable keyboard work from Manzarek (check it out HERE)—set the tone for the 1960s and paved the way for a multitude of singers and musicians to follow.

Bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Iggy and the Stooges, Alice in Chains, The Strokes, Fatboy Slim, Bon Jovi and countless others all cite The Doors as a major influence on their own careers and successes.

Sadly, The Doors in their original incarnation only lasted until 1971, the year of their last recorded studio album, L.A. Woman. Following the recording, Jim moved to Paris with his girlfriend Pamela Courson and started to drink and use drugs more heavily. He did manage to record a little more—taking some musicians he met on the street to an impromptu recording session—but was found dead in his bathtub on July 3rd. He was 27 years old.

Ray and the surviving members of The Doors kept their legacy alive—the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993—but life without their flamboyant front man just wasn’t the same. Each of them went on to different projects and garnered some degree of success in their professional careers, but their fame would never approach what they experienced at the height of their popularity.

The Doors at the height of their popularity (property of Ray Manzarek)

For Ray, life after The Doors meant playing with other groups—including Nite City, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Los Angeles band X, which he also produced—writing poetry and a memoir—1998’s Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors—and even hosting a radio program on the BBC. Ray also managed to cut an album with slide guitarist Roy Rogers—2011’s Translucent Blues—which ranked at number three on the Top 100 Roots Rock Albums of 2011.

In other words, he lived a full, productive, successful and inspirational life. And even though he just lost his battle with cancer and passed away, his influence on music, art and film will be felt indefinitely.

I never knew Ray Manzarek personally—even though I wish that I did—but I definitely feel the loss because of how much I loved (and still love) The Doors and their music. Like many others, I started listening to Jim, Ray and the guys at an early age—during my so-called “formative” years—and even though they disbanded the year I was born—and the year Jim died—there has always been a deep connection between us. And there always will be.

Of course, Ray’s death also reminds me that no matter how much we fight it, time simply catches up to us all. It just sucks when the heroes and idols of your youth start dying off, you know? For me, Ray Manzarek was on that list. I’m going to miss him, but at least he’s in a better place.

And if I know Ray, he and Jim are probably jamming in the Great Beyond as we speak. I can almost hear those sweet keystrokes now…

Posted on May 21, 2013, in Music, Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

All replies welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: