The Doors’ organist Ray Manzarek, who died on May 20th at 74, remembered the day his band was born this way, in his 1998 memoir, Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors. “As he’s singing, I’m hearing an entire recording taking place in my mind’s ear,” Manzarek wrote, describing the impact of Jim Morrison‘s voice and lyrics as the two sat on a beach in Venice, California in July, 1965. “Man, we are making great music together.”
Morrison would become the inevitable star of the Doors. But Manzarek’s thorough integration of blues, jazz and classical dynamics in his keyboard playing was vital to the Doors’ immediate maturation on 1967’s The Doors and Strange Days and their profound, if wayward, evolution until Morrison’s death in 1971. This playlist covers Manzarek’s life in the Doors, from the first demos in 1965 to the band’s last studio album, L.A. Woman. “Moonlight Drive” was the song Morrison first sang to Manzarek that day on the beach, while “Close to You” on Absolutely Live was a rare Manzarek lead vocal, reflecting his dual schooling in blues and classical music in his native Chicago. “Pico Boulevard” comes from Manzarek’s last release, a 2012 collaboration with the poet Michael McClure, The Piano Poems: Live From San Francisco. It is a full-circle moment: Manzarek still finding music to express the dark magic and light of the Doors’ birth city, Los Angeles.