Last year the world lost some of the music in it. Ray Manzarek died at age 74. Today the rock ‘n’ roll world is paying tribute to Ray and I thought since we have published tributes, memorials, remembrances, and biographies of Manzarek, a good way to pay tribute to him is for what he is famous for, his music.
Before The Doors Ray was already playing in a band called Rick and the Ravens which had a contract with Aura records and put out a 45 called “Henrietta”. It was standard early 60’s fare (this was recorded around 1965), but on the vocals you can definitely hear Ray as “Screamin‘ Ray Daniels”. It is Rick and the Ravens and their left over studio time which would benefit The Doors in recording those first Doors demos.
If Jim Morrison was the Dionsyian creator of The Doors songs it was left to Ray to the Apollonian balance to Morrison who not only put Morrison’s words to music but worked out the arrangements and by the time The Doors went into the studio for Elektra Records with their first two albums, it appeared to most that The Doors had appeared fully formed. If it hadn’t been for Morrison’s idea to share songwriting credits and monies equally the songwriting team of Morrison-Manzarek would surely have rivaled that of Lennon-McCartney.
The post-Morrison Doors saw Ray again handling vocals, he switched off with guitar player Robby Krieger and returned to a more traditional rock sound than the psychedelic sound of the Morrison era Doors. Songs like “Tightrope Ride” while obviously an homage to Morrison almost harken back to Ray’s roots of late 50’s, early 60’s rock of “Henrietta”.
In his solo career Manzarek flirted with joining forces with Iggy Pop but found his addiction more problematic than Morrison’s, but put together bands such as Nite City which featured all star players like Nigel Harrison from ‘Blondie’. Other notable albums from this period include “The Golden Scarab” which incorporated Manzarek’s interest in Egyptian mythology. Manzarek then delved into electronic keyboards a little more with “The Whole Thing Started with Rock ‘n’ Roll and Now it’s Out of Control” although the title might be a bit unwieldy for the most part it has nice rock ‘n’ roll in it and while it didn’t much popular notice it received a lot of critical acclaim, and features Joe Walsh and Patti Smith on it.
The 80’s saw Manzarek teaming up with acclaimed musicians, poets, and even blues guitar players. If you like classical music with monks running amok there was “Carmina Burana” with Phillip Glass. For those with more of a jazz/beat poetry bent, Manzarek teamed up with Michael McClure (also a friend of Jim Morrison and beat novelist Jack Kerouac) for projects such as “Love Lion” or the CD “The Piano Poems”. Manzarek also joined forces with blues guitarist Roy Rogers who played with John Lee Hooker, their collaboration culminated in the CD “Translucent Blues”.
One of the tributes put online today for Ray was a radio interview on the syndicated show Acid Flashback, Ray was one of the first guests on the show and it covers a lot of material including his solo material.
Manzarek also played on former UCLA classmate and poet Michael C. Ford’s forthcoming CD. The energy of Ray Manzarek continues…..
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