His face might not adorn a million posters and t-shirts like his old bandmate Jim Morrison, but all of today’s contemporary psychedelic explorers, from Temples to Jagwar Ma and even Palma Violet’s 60s garage-rock organ noise, owe a huge debt to the sound of Doors keysman Ray Manzarek.
Ray departed for the great Whiskey Bar in the sky yesterday, but here’s five killer examples of the playing that will live forever:
Ray plays electric piano on this track, from 1971’s ‘L.A. Woman’, which became The Doors’ last Top 40 hit. The combination of his subtle textures and the stormy sound effects create an atmospheric masterpiece.
The opening track on their self-titled debut album and their first single introduced the world to Ray’s jazzy organ fills, not to mention his disjointed solo that isn’t a million miles from Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’.
Taken from 1968’s ‘Waiting for the Sun’, this song is built around Ray’s playful, springy keyboard riff that runs through everything like a red cord even as the rest of the band veer off in different directions.
This sinister number from ‘Strange Days’, the Doors’ second album, features a classic Ray solo about 1:30 in. The perfect combination of paranoia and barroom singalong.
Surely Ray’s signature tune, and the one that made The Doors into stars, ‘Light My Fire’ is a seven-minute-plus epic propelled by his unmistakable organ riff. While the song was largely written by guitarist Robby Krieger, Ray later said that the distinctive organ intro was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Two and Three Part Inventions’. We just know it makes us want to play air organ like nothing else.