RIP: Ray Manzerek (1939 – 2013)

The Doors… Ray Manzerek on the far right… next to some other guy.

When I first moved to San Francisco from Southern California, I believe I spent more time defending my love of The Doors than I ever imagined possible.  I never realized how much of a SoCal thing The Doors really were until I left… but my love for the band never diminished, despite Oliver Stone’s attempts to sully the band’s image (for the record, I actually like the movie… but it’s not well regarded by most).

I remember the night I bought a CD player from a co-worker in the late 80’s (I was a late adopter, I liked my vinyl) for $25 and went directly from the movie theater to Tower Records to buy my first three CDs… Pink Floyd’s Animals, and The Doors Greatest Hits and L.A. Woman.  Chances are very good that Break on Through was the first thing I ever played in a digital format… and the first sound to come out of that track is the organ of Ray Manzerek… today Mr. Manzerek has passed away from bile duct cancer at the age of 74.

Although Jim Morrison, who died at the age of 27 in a Paris bathroom (allegedly), was the face and of The Doors and the symbol of the band as a whole, it was always Manzerek who was the man behind the music.  His organ, taking both melody and bass lines for most of their songs, was what drove the band to fame.  Sure Morrison’s wackadoo lyrics and over the top showmanship were what grabbed people’s attention, but it was Ray Manzerek who did the heavy lifting.

When I was 18 and travelling through Europe, I made a special point of visiting the grave of Jim Morrison (sadly, fans have defaced much of the gorgeous cemetery where he is interred).  There, wanderers and fans paid tribute to the man and to the music that enriched many of our lives with a particular darkness not found in much of pop music from the time… but again, it was that music that came from Manzerek that made one clown into a hero… and his contribution will always be remembered and appreciated by those of us who knew the difference between the myth and the reality of how great music is made.

Thank you for everything you gave to us Ray Manzerek… may you rest in peace.

Light my what?
Cornelius J. Blahg

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