(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘In order to become one of the immortals – or a god – you have to die. I’d
rather have Jim Morrison be here with us than be a dead rock legend. That’s the
tragedy.” Ray Manzarek, Morrison’s bandmate in The Doors, was reminiscing about
the iconic singer who was found dead at the age of 27 in his bathtub by longtime
partner Pamela Courson in their Paris apartment on July 3, 1971.
his mysterious, premature death elevated Morrison to that “immortal” status
Manzarek described, it has also ended up overshadowing the music The Doors made
in their short five-year career. “I’d like to think that the poetry is the most
important thing about Jim – what he had to say – not his past or the way he
died,” said the 72-year-old Manzarek on the phone with The Jerusalem Post from
his San Francisco home he shares with his wife of 44 years.
The Doors are
ensconced in a lofty position in rock ‘n’ roll lore as one of the most evocative
1960s bands whose influence is still felt today. Their dark, enigmatic music –
dominated by Manzarek’s swirling organ – and Morrison’s shaman-like stage
presence, poetic lyrics and commanding vocals became symbols of the
counter-culture revolution of the time. Their music demanded that listeners
succumb to total liberation, and audiences willingly complied.
band was also able to score one Top 40 hit after another – from “Light My Fire”
to “Riders on the Storm” – was testament to their ability to synthesize
psychedelia, free-form jazz soloing and subversive themes into a palatable sound
for the masses.
Manzarek is still keeping that music alive with his
original bandmate guitarist Robbie Krieger. Over the last decade, they’ve been
on the road regularly, celebrating the music of The Doors.
dummer John Densmore joined them at first; however, he dropped out amid a series
of lawsuits that have prevented Manzarek and Krieger from using the name “The
Since 2004, they’ve been joined by drummer Ty Dennis, bassist
Phil Chen, and have employed a variety of highprofile frontmen, including The
Cult’s Ian Astbury and even Eddie Vedder for a few shows. Their current lead
vocalist is Morrison look-and-soundalike Dave Brock, who has spent years
fronting his own Doors tribute band, Wild Child.
The band will be
spending the 40th anniversary of Morrison’s death performing – where else? – in
Their next show is in Tel Aviv at Hangar 11 on July
According to Manzarek, the band faithfully recreates The Doors’
mystique, even without Morrison’s presence. “As the keyboard player, I would
think that the music might have had something to do with it [their success]. I
think that without songs like “Light My Fire,” “Riders on the Storm” and “LA
Woman,” we wouldn’t be worshiping Jim the way we do,” he said.
Morrison hadn’t met his early death, Manzarek predicted that the band would have
remained together, even though the singer had moved to Paris, grown a long beard
and beer belly and was far from the sex symbol he had been a couple of years
earlier. “We were the other half of his brain,” said Manzarek. “If we would have
broken up, he would have had to join another band. My god, can you imagine Jim
Morrison not singing? All eyes were watching him, the electric shaman with the
band behind him, allowing him to go into a Dionysian frenzy with complete joy,
power and confidence – what a place to be. He was never going to give that
Longtime Israeli fans of The Doors will get a taste of that
experience on Tuesday night, with Brock filling Morrison’s huge shoes. “He’s a
great singer and a very similar astrological type to Jim,” said Manzarek. “But
it’s never eerie. If Jim Morrison showed up on stage, that would be eerie.”