Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ray Manzarek (1939 - 2013)

Manzarek is pictured on the far left
Back in the late 60s I listened to The Doors largely because of Jim Morrison's big, booming voice. He remains, to this day, one of the great rock singers of all time. However, over the years listeners discovered just how much the late Ray Manzarek (who passed away this week) contributed to the sound and overall success of the band.

When you listened beyond the vocals it became obvious that The Doors' first single and most famous song, "Light My Fire," was really a vehicle for keyboard player Manzarek to show off his stuff. As the album version of the song morphed into an organ fueled jam session that was never heard on Top 40 radio you realized just how talented he was. With his ability to improvise Manzarek could have been a fine jazz musician.

To me, Manzarek's greatest moment came on "Riders on the Storm." He played some very spooky electric piano that complemented both Morrison's vocals and the thunderstorm sound effects that were a major part of the piece. Close your blinds, turn out the lights, and listen to "Riders" in total darkness. Manzarek's playing made the song totally, perfectly eerie.

The Doors were one of the rare major rock bands who didn't have a bass player so, to get the deep sounds, Manzarek often played a Fender Rhodes bass keyboard with his left hand while playing organ or piano with his right hand.

While Morrsion, The Doors' most prominent and controversial figure, became headline news Manzarek has gone down in history as one of the few keyboardists to consistently use his instruments as a centerpiece for much of their band's repertoire. He contributed as much to the group as Morrison ever did. It's easy to visualize that without Manzarek The Doors may not have become the huge legends they still are more than forty years after their first hit.


  1. Right on about "Riders on the Storm." I'm not a huge Doors fan, but that's a great song. Right on also about the long version of "Light My Fire." Well done, sir.

  2. Ray is one of my all time favourite keyboard players - a real talent in a period when generally, guitars ruled. Not so long ago, I bought the box set of remixed Doors albums to replace my vinyl and they sound fantastic. RIP Ray.