On Monday, May 20, 2013, Ray Manzarek, the legendary keyboard player of The Doors, passed away at the age of 74. Ray has moved on to join Jim Morrison in the great beyond, but the music he made with Morrison, John Densmore and Robby Krieger will live forever.
Jim Morrison may have been the tortured poet and sex god of the band, but Manzarek channeled Bach, Bertolt Brecht and the sound of the carnival with his masterful playing. His highly original style stands out on such hits as “Light My Fire”, “Riders on the Storm”, “Break on Through” and “People Are Strange.” Jim was the voice of The Doors, but Ray was the master musician who gave their music its soul.
Doors’ drummer John Densmore paid tribute to Manzarek with these moving words:
“There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.”
Robby Krieger, The Doors’ guitarist, spoke at length about his band-mate and friend:
“Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison were the two most unusual people I have ever known. It didn’t take long to realize this about Jim. He was obviously a genius, and he worked hard at being different. Did a good job of it too. Ray on the other hand, was a late bloomer. I guess it took all of his [and our ] energies to keep Jim in line. The real Ray didn’t appear until after Jim was gone. He was constantly doing projects with different people, producing, playing with different poets. He always saw the good side of people, and that was his genius. He was the only guy at UCLA that saw something good about Jim. Everyone else thought of Jim as a phony or worse. He saw the genius of Jim’s words and the rest is history. Ray sure did influence my life, and I hope yours too. I’ll always be grateful to John for introducing me to Ray and Jim, and I’ll never forget them.”
Today, as I reflect on the passing of another child of the now distant 1960s and I approach my 62nd birthday, I realize what a glorious life I have lived, and more importantly, how glorious it is to be alive. While I refuse to live in the past, it is true, that for me and millions of others, the 1960s were a unique period of human history when we almost changed the world.
Alas, the powers that rule this planet proved stronger, and the 60s ended in a haze of drugs and disillusionment, but we did manage to stop a war that ravaged Southeast Asia and took 59,000 American lives and the lives of millions of Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotians, Thai and Cambodians. Our efforts were not in vain and it will be up to the children of the future to resurrect and complete the work for true peace and equality that my generation started.
We may have dabbled in politics and helped put an end to the madness of Vietnam, but the true heart of that time was the music. Almost 50 years have passed since the Summer of Love and the Human Be Ins, and still, whenever I hear the music of those days, I am transported to a special, timeless place where everything is pure, unadulterated joy.
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Wilson, Mama Cass, Bob Hite, Brian Jones, Gram Parsons, Marc Bolan, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia, Tim Buckley, and so many others, all died much too young, but they left behind a living legacy of incredible music that may bring occasional tears to my eyes, but never fails to open the gateway to bliss.
And then there was that one special moment called Woodstock. When I look at footage of a young Carlos Santana, head back and eyes closed, pouring out note after note of sheer ecstasy from his guitar as he played “Soul Sacrifice”, how can I fail to be happy. Who could sit still when Ten Years After rocked half a million mud soaked hippies with an epic version of “I’m Going Home.” We all felt connected when Grace Slick took the Woodstock stage as the sun came up, shouting, “Its time for morning maniac music. Believe me, yeah. It’s a new dawn” and the Jefferson Airplane took us into the stratosphere. Of course, the entire world remembers Jimi closing out the festival, playing the most astounding version of “The Star’s Spangled Banner” ever heard.
I was lucky. I worked on the stage at Woodstock and spent three days standing 10 feet from the center of the musical universe, but as I gazed out over the ocean of humanity in the crowd, I realized we were all part of a larger soul. The beautiful young woman I left behind in a tent on the hill behind the stage was forgotten. The mud and rain no longer mattered. I learned on that stage the most important lesson of my life; how to become one with the music.
I could go on forever remembering those days, and I plan to go on forever into whatever the future may bring. I leave you with my poem about the glorious days of the 1960s and I hope every one of you is blessed with your own special moment in time that will provide never ending joy and inspiration as you journey through life.
I WAS THERE
by Wolff Bachner
Copyright 1998 and 2008
Kerouac aint comin back
Dean took the final trip
and angelheaded hipsters
now hustle sunset strip
San Francisco aint kool no more
but it’s still very gay
except the folks are fading fast
cause aids got in the way
Timothy Leary is finally dead
he’s in search of the holy host
Richard Alpert changed his name
Baba Ram Dass tripped out the most
Allen went looking for an angry fix
howling at Moloch while seeking salvation
jazzed out on bennies and eyeball kicks
the soul of the beat generation
Jim opened new doors and felt our desire
he fanned the flames and lit the fire
on his excesses we all could depend
what a shame they took his life in the end
poor Jerry and the Grateful Boys
aint playing in the band
heart attacks and heroin
dealt a losing hand
Uncle Sam and Tricky Dick
have faded from the scene
and all the ’60’s dreamers
worship holy green
the Rainbow Family still sits and drums
in circles out of time
now the poets don’t speak their words
the verses are done online
we all fall silent
poor flower child
we’ve forgotten how to hope
and where the laughter once echoed loud
we hear the tears of dope
gunshots ring out in the night
the time is getting late
we better smile and pass that joint
before all that’s left is hate
chorus or refrain:
stay in the sun
live your life
it’s your only one
i was there
but now that’s done
and i’m still having fun
I’M STILL HAVING FUN!