Ray Manzarek 1939-2013

I can remember when I was in the 8th grade I went out and bought The Very Best of The Doors album for the sole purpose of the song Riders on the Storm. As time progressed I began to explore the album and listen to other tracks like Light My Fire, Love Me Two Times, L.A. Woman, Soul Kitchen, The End and Break on Through (To the Other Side). I was struck not only by how good and different the songs were, but the fact that I had heard them before in other aspects of my life. Showcasing their timelessness that in 2002 I was able to recognize recordings from thirty years earlier. My parents and relatives were surprised when they learned that I owned a Doors record, remarking how interesting it was that I was listening to a band that they had grown up with. How I doubt that I will be able to say the same.
It is a fact that there would be no Doors without Ray Manzarek. He was walking along Venice Beach one day contemplating his future, when he came across his former UCLA film school classmate James Douglas Morrison. Ray was under the impression that Jim was headed to NYC after graduation, and as they got down to chatting Jim confessed that he had stayed in LA and had been writing songs. Or as Morrison put it, “I was taking notes at a fantastic rock n’ roll concert going on in my head” (he had been taking copious amounts of acid at the time). Ray convinced Jim to sing him part of “Moonlight Drive” and its beautiful lyrics prompted Ray to remark “let’s go start a band and make a million dollars.”

Millions upon millions of dollars they did make thanks in no small part to Ray’s cultivation of the organ and bass parts for the band. Part of the Door’s unique appeal was that they had no bass player, setting them apart from other bands of the era. Instead, Ray used a Fender Rhodes piano which provided deep low notes as the bands bass. He played it along with a Vox Continental combo organ to round out the band’s sound of psychedelic, rock, blues, folk and soul. Manzarek was also very good at taking the business of making records and playing shows seriously. As a musician he was most concerned with how the band sounded and not sending any type of special message or delivering a captivating performance, as Jim was keen to do. He consistently gave great interviews with The Doors up until his death where he would recollect the history of the band and his experiences in it. Ray often tried to keep Jim in line when he would get lost in his own haze of alcohol, singing lyrics live when Jim would pass out on stage or otherwise be unable to sing.

A talented musician and honest professional, Ray Manzarek was a founding member of one of Rock’s greatest bands. He leaves behind a great legacy of music, interviews and achievements. He unlike many of us was able to leave something behind once he left this earth. For me, the band’s first album remains one of my favorites and in my opinion one of the greatest in rock history. As Jim would say, Ray has joined him on the other side of life and he will be missed.


This clip highlights the different personalities of the band as they introduce themselves at an airport while arriving for their European tour .


Here towards the middle with have Ray expressing how he hopes the band is received on tour and within it we see what is most important to him as a performer.



  1. TimeSurfer2100 says:

    That’s the truth Tom. I also want to make a few statements about classic rock that really “allowed” it to be so amazing and therefore give modern rock more creditability then it usually has. For one, the electric guitar was just getting past it’s earlier stages of creation and it was finally easy to get your hands on it. The TV and national radio had also recently been created and people were able to transmit their music to the entire nation and internationally, rather then just locally for the first time. Lastly, it was a massive time of change, from the “good ole days” to “free love”. These were all massive, massive, changes. The argument I want to pose here is that classic rock represented the convergence of so many of these massive changes and by that argument is largely a product of the times. You know, if nobody knew the old delta blues today and then someone randomly “dug them up” then I’m pretty sure they would create some mind-bending new sounding stuff that would drive people crazy listening to it. That is not to say that the people of the classic rock days were not creative or talented, I’m just saying that the mix of what was going on also allowed this amazing music to occur. How many great songs were influenced by Vietnam?

    Counterargument: 1. the 90s were a ridiculous technological change too, 2. 9/11 had a huge impact, possibly similar to Vietnam and 3. the accessibility of recording allows many more people to create good music. Therefore, there should have been a lot of changes that provided for good inspiration. The only things about the modern day that really stands out in my mind is that the blues were converted to rock already and the electric guitar is old news now.

  2. wewanttheworld says:

    I would imagine a long time given the quality of the work. Good music will always find an interested audience. As musical quality in the modern era is lacking for some tastes, people will turn to the past for a taste of inspiration and what used to be.

  3. TimeSurfer2100 says:

    Really interesting article Tom. What an important figure Manzarek was. I was not aware of how the group formed and that is such an awesome rock and roll story. Rock certainly wouldn’t be the without The Doors. This is a tough loss for rock and roll.

    Funny point you brought up with your parents being surprised you were listening to the same music as them. That era was really such amazing music and even my 15 year old brother listens to it. I wonder how long these rock classics will stay in the modern listener’s ear.