Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Doors • RIP Ray Manzarek

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Clockwise from bottom left: Robby Krieger; Ray Manzarek; John Densmore; and Jim Morrison

With the passing of Ray Manzarek after a battle with cancer, I thought it would be appropriate to look at some of the music he made when he was keyboardist with the iconic band The Doors. While the band might bring to mind the images of frontman Jim Morrison in tight leather pants, it should also remind us of the soaring organ music that helped define the sound. It was Manzarek who gave The Doors this signature sound, one that immediately makes me think of The Doors and the late 1960s.

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Left to right: Jim Morrison; Ray Manzarek; Robby Krieger;and  John Densmore.

The Doors were one of the preeminent rock bands of the time, and were made up by Morrison, Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore. It is still amazing to me that The Doors left such a rich catalog of music, despite being together for just eight years. And, when you look at is, it was really just six years, as Morrison dies in 1971, and while they continued to make music with Manzarek and Krieger on vocals, they never achieved the success, and disbanded in 1973. But when they was on point, there were few American Rock bands that could compete. Between the talent and charisma of Morrison, and the brilliant musicianship of Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore, their power was unmistakable. I will start with a look at their first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, "Light My Fire". The song, written by the band, stormed up the charts in 1967.

The following year, the song was covered by José Feliciano, and the song went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Feliciano, an accomplished guitarist, put his own sound into the song. "Love Me Two Times" was another hit in 1967. The song, also written by the band, once again had their signature sound, combining the rich voice of Morrison with the strength of Manzarek's keyboards. I found this clip of the band playing in Europe in 1968.

For the 1968 hit "Touch Me", The Doors changed up their sound a little bit, adding both string and a horn section. This gave the song a richer sound, with additional textures. But it still had that very special sound for which the band became known. The song, written by Robby Krieger, made it to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The following clip features the band playing on 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', and featured the string and horn section of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.

I will come to a close with the second #1 hit for The Doors, 1968's "Hello I Love You". Like much of their music, the song was written by the band. It was featured on the 1968 album 'Waiting For The Sun', their third album, and the first to hit #1 on the Billboard album chart, just as the single topped the Billboard Hot 100. This clip is from a 1968 concert at the famed Hollywood Bowl.

It has been well-documented that Jim Morrison died on July 3, 1971, in Paris, France, of an apparent drug overdose. As I mentioned earlier, the band released two more albums before disbanding. However, the first six albums are all certified Platinum in sales, and continue to be discovered and purchased by music lovers today. on May 20, 2013, Manzarek died of complications related to bile duct cancer, the second member of The Doors to leave us. Rest in peace, Ray. Hope you find Morrison and you can play together once again. To learn more about The Doors, visit the official website. You can purchase 'The Very Best of The Doors' on both iTunes and Amazon.

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