Requiem for Ray Manzarek, Part II

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Ray Manzarek, mid-1960s

Ray Manzarek was a true believer in The Doors and the message they brought to the world. In part II of “Requiem for Ray Manzarek” (Part I here) we look at Manzarek’s post-Doors life.

After closing The Doors Manzarek sought other creative outlets. He hired Danny Sugerman, who had previously worked as gofer in The Doors office, as his manager. Sugerman was able to get Manzarek together with Iggy Pop, who had been influenced by a Doors performance to pursue rock ’n’ roll, in Manzarek’s new group, Nite City. Pop at the time was a heroin addict, and Manzarek decided he had already been in a band with a volatile personality and went on with the project himself. He also explored his interest in Egyptian mythology via music in “The Golden Scarab.” His solo album “The Whole Thing Started With Rock ‘n’ Roll” was a title based on an off-hand comment Jim Morrison had made in concert: “The whole thing started with rock ‘n’ roll and now it’s out of control!” The album received critical acclaim but never found its audience.

At the end of the ’70s a Doors resurrection started to occur, brought on in part by Francis Ford Coppola’s use of “The End” in “Apocalypse Now” and in part by Danny Sugerman’s persistence and ability to finally get Jerry Hopkins’ manuscript of “No One Here Gets Out Alive” published (it’s been rumored that Manzarek lent a hand to rewriting some of the manuscript). Manzarek, spurred on by former Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, also recorded music around poems recorded by Jim Morrison prior to his death. The resulting album, “An American Prayer,” has attained platinum status having sold over a million copies.

In the 1980s The Doors’ resurrection and revival went into full flower with renewed fan interest. Manzarek became the keeper of The Doors flame, history and mythology, even finding his forte as ranconteur of those histories and explaining how The Doors created their songs. Manzarek didn’t stay rooted to the past; he discovered the band X and produced their breakthrough album “Los Angeles.”

By the 1990s, The Doors had become a legendary band in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll and this status was acknowledged when Manzarek was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Doors in 1993. Not willing to sit on his laurels, Manzarek pursued further creative endeavors. In 2000, making use of his UCLA film school degree, he directed the feature film “Love Her Madly” about an art school love triangle and murder. Manzarek also diversified into literature, writing the novel “The Poet in Exile” about a legendary rock star who fakes his death and heads off to an idyllic island retreat; this is of course based on the rumors that Jim Morrison had done exactly the same thing.

It was at this time that controversy again swirled around Manzarek and The Doors. Manzarek and Robby Krieger, spurred on by a VH-1 Storytellers appearance and the tribute album “Stoned Immaculate” (both of which John Densmore participated in), decided they would like to tour again and formed a band called “The Doors of the 21st Century.” John Densmore took exception to the The Doors’ name being used without him and voiced his discontent. The whole matter took the surviving members into court and caused a rift that persisted almost until Manzarek’s dying day.

In recent years Manzarek and Krieger toured as the Manzarek-Krieger Band, playing for Doors fans worldwide. Manzarek collaborated and toured with blues guitarist Roy Rogers in the Manzarek-Rogers Band and released the albums “Ballads Before the Rain,” “Translucent Blues,” and “Twisted Tales.” Manzarek also occasionally joined beat poet Michael McClure in projects (McClure did a cameo with Manzarek in “Love Her Madly”) such as the 2012 “Piano Poems: Live in San Francisco” and worked with the up-and-coming generation of musicians such as Skrillex and TechN9ne.

Ray Manzarek died on May 20, 2013 of bile duct cancer. Happily, John Densmore reported that he called Manzarek upon learning of his illness and healed the rift that had developed between them. Densmore and Robby Krieger put together a tribute show to honor Manzarek that took place on February 13, 2016. The show featured many tributes from famous musicians.

Thank you, Ray, for believing and for 50 years of great music and art.

Originally published February 13, 2014.

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