Ray Manzarek, one of the founding members of The Doors, whose keyboard and organ sounds were as much of a signature sound for the band as was lead singer Jim Morrison’s attitudinal and poetic lead singing, has died at the age of 74 in Rosenheim, Germany after a lengthy battle with bile duct cancer reports Rolling Stone.
The Doors were and remain one of the premier American rock and roll bands to come out of California in the 1960s. Like The Beach Boys, the band is pretty much synonymous with the California lifestyle, but very unlike the Beach Boys, they were like the solarized version of them, expressing musically about darkness, early gothic nightmarish tales of love, political awareness, death and doomy styles that were punctuated by music which was deep rooted in the blues and something else actually, something indescribable at the time. A sound that was all their own, which was created by Morrison’s shamanic lizard king posturing, the jazzy yet tight bottom ended drumming of John Densmore, the buried in the delta swampy fretwork of Robby Krieger, and the horrorshow carnivalesque feel from the hands of Ray Manzarek who flawlessly played his instrument (and sometimes even played the bass parts on the organ as well).
On songs like “Touch Me,” “Five to One,” “Break on Through,” “Love Street,” and the band’s huge smashes like “Hello I Love You,” “Riders on the Storm,” and “Light My Fire,” Manzarek audibly showcased his playing, which made the songs as memorable as any other factor which contributed to their success. The Doors were one of the rare juggernauts in rock and roll where every band member contributed in a large part to the overall finished products. In the studio or live, the essence of what the band was able to achieve, was due to a sincere and clockwork style chemistry that they sported.
Manzarek was a bit older than the rest of the band and he seemed to parlay a no-nonsense approach when it came to the band in terms of their direction, musical and image wise. Although he tried his best, it was almost impossible to rein in Jim Morrison for the most part; Morrison was a figure larger than life, and he lived every ounce of his short existence on the planet that way. Upon Morrisons death in Paris in 1971, many thought that The Doors were in essence defunct. However, Manzarek, who had dabbled in singing, most notably on a track called “Close to You” which originally appeared on the band’s live album Absolutely Live in 1970, took over the front man reins and The Doors released 2 albums in the wake of Morrison’s death to little fanfare, but are albums that remain curios to Doors fanatics and completists to this very day. A possible stint with Iggy Pop was short lived and found to be impossible to bring to fruition due to Pop’s very Morrison like off stage antics, and in the next ensuing decades Manzarek kept busy with a sundry amount of projects: producing the Los Angeles punk band X, reuniting with the surviving members of The Doors in various stints ranging from the three of them putting new music on old recordings of Morrison reciting poetry (An American Prayer), to forming new versions of The Doors in one way or another in incarnations that were fronted by Ian Astbury of The Cult or a version that briefly had ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland on drums. Manzarek was also immortalized in the film biopic The Doors, which was directed by Oliver Stone, in 1990.
In a statement, Robby Krieger expressed his grief for Manzarek’s passing, in which he wrote:
“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today. I’m just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last decade. Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.”
In his death, Manzarek now moves into the legendary status as rightful tributes will start to pour in, and the music of The Doors, while really never under the radar, will probably be right back in the forefront again on classic rock radio and the like. RIP to Ray Manzarek, a true original at his craft, a co-pioneer of drafting and charting a new sound in rock and roll which is still highly imitated and beloved to this very day, much like the man himself and The Doors will always remain.
[Source: Rolling Stone]