Archived Story

Remembering a rock legend and pioneer

Published 6:30am Sunday, May 26, 2013

I exchanged texts and Facebook messages with many friends last Monday after learning Ray Manzarek — co-founder of The Doors — had died of cancer.

One text seemed particularly fitting: “I’m going to find a bar and play crystal ship on the jukebox.”

The notion hit home, since “The Crystal Ship” was one of the few Doors songs Manzarek played with slide guitarist Roy Rogers when they performed at Austin’s Paramount Theatre on April 23, 2011. His solo piano performance of the classic Doors song was one of the highlights of the show.

I had the opportunity to meet and interview Manzarek and Rogers before the concert. A few months earlier when a co-worker first told me Manzarek had been booked to play at the Paramount Theatre, I immediately called dibs — fitting for my schoolboy-like excitement — on getting to cover the concert. Luckily, my co-workers were all more than willing to oblige — or follow the unwavering code of calling dibs.

Leading up to the concert, I watched the documentary “Strange Days” on The Doors multiple times, I read other Manzarek interviews and I watched Youtube videos of Manzarek and Rogers.

On the day of the show, I played all The Doors albums, and — to be honest — I had to do everything in my power to remain professional at the interview.

While it was an absolute treat to interview Manzarek, I got the distinct feeling he was mildly annoyed with another person asking the same questions, like “Do you still listen to The Doors albums today?”

Who can blame him after decades of talking about Jim Morrison and The Doors? Manzarek didn’t seem eager to dwell strictly on Morrison or The Doors during the Q&A portion of the show; he wanted to give his present music due diligence.

What was clear about The Doors was that Manzarek wanted people to see the band as a collaboration, as four men who worked together to produce the classic music.

It was not just Jim Morrison and his sidemen, an impression Oliver Stone’s film fueled in pop culture.

As one person told me after his death, Manzarek was the real musical genius of The Doors. He was the grounding musical force to Morrison’s wild persona and mysterious charisma. Plus, Manzarek’s keyboards have as much to do with The Doors’ signature sound as Morrison’s baritone, especially since Manzarek often played both organ and bass parts on his keyboards.

While he seemed a bit hesitant to discuss the Doors in 2011, he perked up a bit when I asked him about his 40-plus year marriage to his wife, Dorothy.

His response is still the highlight of my interview with Manzarek, as it was simple but pointed advice:

“Well, stay in love and give your spouse anything he or she wants. Whatever they want — give it to them. One guy said, ‘I can’t do that, man. My wife would break me.’ Well then you got the wrong woman. Go find a woman who’s sensible enough to know that. It’s a team. It’s a team, and if your wife is going to spend all your money, well then you better find another — don’t marry that girl. So, you give the other person everything. Total giving — in the Christian manner. You give all the love you’re capable of and all the material goods to the other person, and hopefully the other person will say, ‘I don’t need diamonds. I need your love, not diamonds.’ Simple as that, but so dangerous.”


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