Ray Manzarek, co-founder and keyboardist of the Doors, died today at 74. Complications from bile duct cancer.
As the master of the spooky-sounding and creepy organ first heard in rock and roll in "96 Tears" or "She's About A Mover," Manzarek was both the embellishment and the bottom for Venice, Calif.'s most famous band. They had no bass (live, on records they did). The bass was Ray's left hand -- according to Manzarek, every time they tried to add a bass, the sound became leaden and useless. And so, that oddly springy feel the Doors made real owed as much to Ray as it did their colorful frontman or their jazzy guitarist and drummer.
He also produced X's first four discs and wonderfully, too -- never tried to clean them up or polish them and while his keys were all over their debut, they disappeared afterwards, when the band was better known and more confidant.
He was cool. Changed my life too!
When I was 16, my friend Tommy got us backstage passes for the Doors/Dr John gig on the Boston Commons (Tommy knew Chuck Leavell from Florida, Chuck was playing keys with Dr John.)
As Dr John was doing his gris-gris thing onstage, I found myself standing next to Ray Manzarek and as I had a J in me pocket, I sparked her up and passed it to my childhood hero. He and his wife and I finished the reefer.
I couldn't even talk -- not because of the herb, but because I had SMOKED A JOINT WITH RAY FUCKING MANZAREK!!!!!
Thanks for helping me be a kid, Ray. Peace to you.