Ray Manzarek is an American musician who’s mostly known for being the keyboardist of The Doors, the highly influential band whose iconic status is mostly contributed to the eccentric character of vocalist Jim Morrison. However, any real Doors fan knows that Ray’s contribution to the songs are an essential part of the overall sound of the band.
This is evident from hits like “Light My Fire“, “People are Strange” and “Yes, The River Knows” among others. Ray is comfortable playing keyboard/bass and performing the vocals at the same time, a skill he developed while playing live shows with The Doors, where he occasionally sang instead of Morrison.
After Jim Morrison passed away and the Doors legacy came to a halt, Ray pursued his own musical career, which spanned 6 albums to date, along with 2 albums with Nite City and many live shows with fellow Doors guitarist Robby Krieger where they would bring classic Doors songs to fresh audiences around the world. What’s interesting in Ray is that his solo career is rarely brought to attention, although his work is always so innovative and diverse. For example, here’s “Downbound Train” from his 1974 album “The Golden Scarab” (1974):
It’s safe to say that Ray has several musical genres wrapped under his belt, from Classical, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Latin and Lounge, and he always balances these different moods, like in his 2006 album “Love Her Madly“, where Lounge and Smooth Jazz influences are scattered all over the album with sprinkles of Experimental / Electronic grooves to go with it. Here’s “Too Close To The Sun” from the album:
Ray’s latest release was a collaboration with slide guitarist Roy Rogers on the album “Translucent Blues” released in 2011. This album is my favorite Blues Rock album since I heard Gary Moore’s 2001 release “Back To The Blues“. At 73 years old, Ray’s chops are as good as they ever were, his passion for music grows with the years, and his charisma is much more alive now than his days as the ‘nerdy’ neat keyboardist who sat in the shadows of one of Rock’s most iconic frontmen.
Here’s Ray & Roy discussing “Game Of Skill” from Translucent Blues:
To get a glimpse of Ray’s character and charisma, here’s an interesting video where Ray talks about Jim Morrison’s arrest in New Haven (notice the vivid storytelling):
I hope you enjoyed this overview of one of Rock’s most respected keyboardists. Check out the links below for more information on Ray Manzarek!