Doors Keyboardist Ray Manzarek Tells the Story of the Classic Song, ‘Riders on the Storm’

Ray Manzarek of the Doors died Monday of cancer. He was 74. Manzarek’s jazz-inflected, classically influenced keyboard playing, woven together with Jim Morrison’s baritone vocals, helped define the sound of the 1960s.

Manzarek and Morrison were both recent graduates of the UCLA film school in 1965 when they had a chance encounter on Venice Beach. Morrison sang a few songs for Manzarek, and the two decided right then and there to start a band. Drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger soon joined, and the Doors were born.

From the beginning, the classically trained Manzarek played musical foil to Morrison’s poetic wildman persona. “We just combined the Apollonian and the Dionysian,” Manzarek said of the band in 1997. “The Dionysian side is the blues, and the Apollonian side is classical music. The proper artist combines Apollonian rigor and correctness with Dionysian frenzy, passion and excitement. You blend those two together, and you have the complete, whole artist.”

For a fascinating look at just how beautifully things blended together with the Doors, watch above as Manzarek tells the story of the band’s classic 1971 single, “Riders on the Storm.” The scene is from the 2011 documentary Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman, which chronicles the making of the Doors’ sixth and final studio album. The band recorded “Riders on the Storm” in December of 1970. By the time L.A. Woman was released in April of 1971, Morrison had already moved to Paris, where he died a few months later. “Riders on the Storm” reached number 14 on the Billboard charts in America. You can hear the finished recording below.

Related Content:

A Young, Clean Cut Jim Morrison Appears in a 1962 Florida State University Promo Film

Animations Revive Lost Interviews with David Foster Wallace, Jim Morrison & Dave Brubeck

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Comments (6)
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  • Ron Massie says:

    Ray-RIP..Thanks for explaining the magic of Riders on The Storm-came to life….Blessings

  • James Melillo says:

    When the music’s over turn out the light ! First Jim and now Ray have opened the Doors of Perception

  • paolo says:

    …la tenerezza durante la spiegazione di un brano che è entrato nella storia della musica rock…che la terra ti sia lieve, ray …another real rider on the storm… rest in peace forever…

  • Margaret Rose STRINGER says:

    This song was a staging post along the road of my life; and it is, I believe, the same for many of my generation.
    All the musos involved could be proud of its tenure in, come dice Paolo, la storia della music rock.

  • M. Samuelson says:

    May he rest in peace. For those of us who came of age during the 60’s and Doors where the music we loved and enjoyed, we owe a lot of to Ray for his vision and brilliance.

    Also a thank you to Francis Ford Coppola whose use of Doors sound in his Apocalypse Now open the door for the Doors music recognition by a another generation. May God Bless the all.

  • R.A. Mero says:

    I got to meet Ray & Danny Sugarman back in 94, that was a big deal to me. I always figured Ray as a cosmic director, I always had an interest in what he had to say. No matter where in the world I was living I always paid attention to what he was saying. The world is empty without him.

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