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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