Yesterday the music world lost a titan with the passing of Ray Manzarek, organist, pianist, harpsichordist, bassist and sometimes vocalist for legendary 60s group, the Doors. While it can’t be argued that Jim Morrison was the iconic focal point of the band, the face that everyone conjures from the mist whenever the icy organ of Light My Fire cuts through the airwaves, I think it’s pretty safe to say that without Ray Manzarek playing that organ, nobody would have ever known Jim Morrison’s name.
Ray’s technical prowess was unquestionable, but his ability to maintain both lead and rhythm instruments, to accent and augment Jim’s wild antics (especially live) and to arrange with fluidity tunes that other members were bringing to the group, is often overlooked by all but the deepest of Doors fans. And honestly, that’s the breaks when you’re not the singer, and Ray always seemed content enough over near the drums, pounding away liked a stooped madman, a little twinkle of “Oh, I know the truth…” ever present in his eye.
His playing is unmistakable, eerie and majestic, a demented carnival musician wrapping the listener in a web of spine tingling seduction. There are moments, particularly late at night, when certain Doors tunes can absolutely give me the willies, and 98% of the time it’s all because of Ray’s playing. And while it’s doubtless that his influence and legacy will continue to stretch for generations to come, his style and sound were impossible to duplicate, and if anyone ever sounded like Ray – likely it was Ray.
After the end of the Doors, which did not end with Jim’s death, as they produced two more (moderately successful) albums with Ray at the lead, he continued to work as producer with bands he influenced, including X, Echo and the Bunnymen and the equally iconic Iggy Pop (who was actually considered to replace Jim at one point).
Here are a few standout tracks where Ray's bit was integral.