Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr., known as Ray Manzarek (February 12, 1939 – ∞)  was an American musician, singer, producer, film director, and author, best known as a founding member and keyboardist of The Doors from 1965 to 1973. He was a co-founding member of Nite City from 1977 to 1978, and of Manzarek-Krieger from 2001 to his death. Manzarek died on May 20, 2013. May he rest in peace and his brillian music live forever!

From left to right Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger

Ray Manzarek was one of the most individual and influential musicians in rock history. In a genre dominated by guitars, his sinuous, rhythmic, weaving keyboards, replete with jazzy flourishes, Gothic arpeggios and colourful splashes, provided the rich, fluid, ever-expanding backdrop to the greatest American rock band of the Sixties, perhaps of all time. 

                      'The music lives on. It may be a cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true.'

Manzarek was both the root of The Doors sound and its highest, wildest branches, providing slinky, funky bass with his left hand and noodly, hypnotic, surging, flowing, melodic and rhythmic adornment with his right. He was a dazzling musician, certainly, but he was a lot more than that – a bespectacled, thoughtful intellectual who approached rock music as he approached life, as a vehicle for self-exploration and higher possibility.

The Doors were a finely balanced group, one of those special units where every member counts, even if they are chiefly remembered now for the beautiful, brilliant, tragic Jim Morrison, the shamanistic frontman who established some of the abiding myths of rock and roll, a wayward, poetic archetype for living fast, and burning bright. 

                                              'The Doors should be taught in schools.'

That rather prosaic band name was actually a reference to Aldous Huxley’s Doors Of Perception, itself drawn from a quotation by William Blake. Morrison effectively lived by Blake’s dangerous notion that the road to excess leads to the gates of wisdom. Sadly, wastefully, what he found there was alcoholism, heroin use and death at 27. Morrison’s self-destruction brought a premature end to a phenomenal musical unit while ensuring their immortality as symbols of rock’s dangerous power for both transcendence and destruction. Today, The Doors are almost celebrated more as an idea than a band but they left behind a lot of astonishing


Rock careers are short, and life is long. Manzarek had a frustrating time since the death of Morrison. There were two inevitably diminished albums as a trio, and various post-Doors projects involving the spoken word poetry of Morrison. There were solo projects and pick up bands, and many collaborations with guitarist Krieger, including some ill-advised tours effectively as a Doors tribute act. It may have seemed a diminishment of the band’s myth to perform with stand-ins for someone as uniquely individual as Morrison yet it is hard not to feel sympathy for any musician who just wants to get out and play his own music. 

Manzarek also managed some interesting collaborations over the decades. He worked with Philip Glass, played with Iggy Pop and produced Echo & The Bunnymen, a band heavily influenced by The Doors. The teenage son of one my colleagues only recently discovered Manzarek, through his work with US electro sensation Skrillex. 

Music, of course, isn’t everything. Whenever Manzarek popped up in the media, he came across as a fascinating, lively, well-balanced individual. He married Dorothy Fujikawa in 1967, and she was with him until the end. They had one son, Pablo, and three grandchildren. Manzarek died of cancer yesterday, in a clinic in Germany. When he died at 74, he had outlived his old band mate Morrison, who died aged 27, by 42 years.

The music lives on. It may be a cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true. I have been listening while I write this to The Doors Live in Boston 1970, a posthumously released recording of two shows performed at the Boston Arena on one night, April 10, 1970. Morrison turned up drunk (or, as Manzarek recalled “pie eyed, stinko, a rummy in training”) but he is on rambling, audacious, improvisational poetic form. And the band, marshalled by Manzarek, shift and move behind and around him, not just keeping him afloat but pushing him and the audience ever higher. “Listen to the band work and cajole and follow and lead him,” wrote Manzarek in the liner notes. “What a wild Doors night.” 

Wild indeed. People will be listening to Manzarek’s brilliant, expressive playing on that night and many others for a long, long time to come. 

Words By Music Critic, The Telegraph

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