A passing: Ray Manzarek

Today, Ray Manzarek, co-founder of The Doors died peacefully of biliary cancer at age 74, surrounded by his family, as it should be.  Technically it was the end of a musical era when Jim died of personal demons in 1971. Ray’s death adds to the sadness as a harbinger of all our eventual passages.

The history of Rock as a musical art form evolved vertically from its roots in the blues with jazz inflections beginning in the mid 60s. REO Speedwagon in the Midwest,  Aerosmith in Boston,  The Rascals in New York, The Allman Bros in Georgia to name only a few.  But the true epicenter of 60s Rock was Laurel Canyon in LA, central to the evolution of Rock as a serious medium.

The cross fertilization, cross pollination and insemination leading to the arrival of Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash & Young, the Eagles, Frank Zappa, the Turtles, the Mamas & Papas to name but a few.  And of course, more to the point……The Doors, created in LA and nurtured in Laurel Canyon. There was nothing like them before and there will probably be nothing like them again.

It was 1967, the year “Alice’s Restaurant” signaled the emergence of a radical change in things.   The strains of “Are you Experienced” from Jimi Hendrix and “When the music’s over” from the Doors wafted around the dorm hall leading to stunned silence. No one had ever herd anything like that before.  It was literally electrifying and it led like the auditory pied piper to the culture that created it.

Music is in a class by itself in its ability to pluck at the strings of the human heart and the masters have the ability to bypass technique. Mozart is said to have been able to perfectly play the identical piano piece upside down or with his arms crossed. Similarly, it wasn’t what Jim said; it was the way he said it and the words paled quickly.

If I play Jim Morrison in a pitch-black room, I physically return to many a curious and forgotten lore. I still get dazed and confused just as my generation did in 1967. When I play “If you’re going to San Francisco” by the late Scott McKenzie, or “Kiss and say goodbye” by the Hollywoods, it moves me to tears. “Gimmie Shelter” by the Stones makes me crazy. When I play on stage with the CODES and watch people absorbing the music and reacting, it reminds me of the awesome power it holds.

Rest in peace Ray and Jim.

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