Ray Manzarek, the keyboard player in The Doors, died at the age of 74 after battling cancer.
To most of the public, Jim Morrison was The Doors. Morrison was the singer, resident sex symbol, occasional songwriter and image of the band. But without Manzarek’s pulsating organ work, there would have been so signature sound.
Try to imagine “Light My Fire” without Manzarek’s jazzy inflections during the long instrumental break. It would be impossible. Yes, Morrison was a fantastic singer. But Manzarek contributed a great deal to the band’s sound and appeal. The Doors’ music continues to endure today, a testament to its originality, power and beauty.
Manzarek was a founding member of the quartet. He had the vision to make a difference in popular music. The Doors formed in about 1965 at a time when Bob Dylan was going electric, The Beatles were discovering the creative and other highs of marijuana and The Rolling Stones broke through worldwide with “Satisfaction.”
It must’ve seemed daunting for an unknown Los Angeles band with no track record to attempt to challenge the kings of the hill. But the combination of Morrison’s vocals, Manzarek’s inventive organ riffs, guitarist Robby Krieger’s lyrics and John Densmore’s pounding drumming created the basis for “Light My Fire,” the single that personified 1967. You couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing it.
Manzarek, like Krieger and Densmore, often gets unfairly overlooked when people study the legacy of The Doors. It’s natural since Morrison died so young, at 27, under mysterious circumstances in Paris in 1971. Manzarek? He was the one with the dark glasses and the long hair.
But don’t shortchange the keyboard player in the group. Without him, the Door wouldn’t have existed.