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.