There hasn’t been a month in my life when I didn’t think about Ray Manzarek at least once. That organ was a staple in my family home. I was a little girl when I found poetry, I was even younger when I discovered The Doors. My father would sing their songs to me on the long drives back home after spending the weekend with him, just outside the city limits. Repeating the words,
“I see your hair is burnin’
was his way of telling me that he loved me, and that I was his childhood version of Los Angeles incarnate. I wanted to become Los Angeles, I wanted to make my father proud. More as a child than now, I understood what embellishment meant, and I understood what it meant for a soul to be on fire, in a city of lights. When the music played, I felt my father’s heart through his eyes.
But then, I’d go home. Home was where my Mother and Stepfather raised me; another version of Los Angeles, within the cities’ limits. My stepfather was a musician, with an ego to match. The nine year old version of me wanted to be Jim Morrison. Wanted to move like him, to be free like him. I wanted to make music through words, just like him. But my stepfather had none of it. He tried to make certain I knew from early on, that Jim Morrison was “garbage”. “Manzarek was the sound behind the music, and the music is what we’ll always remember,” He tried to convince me. “Manzarek is a genius”. Of course I’d argue, “but Jim is soooo cool,” so as soon as we moved into a bigger house, my stepfather bought us a Vox organ that he found at St. Vincent de Paul’s .
I was nine years old when I discovered that a band didn’t need a bass player. But as I grew older, I realized no one else made such powerful and transcendent music without one. Manzarek was one of a kind.
Jim Morrison crept into my thoughts often, as I’m sure most LA poet’s and “musicians” can relate to. But, I always felt guilty for not mentioning Manzarek first, when talking about the Doors. It was his sound that brought the words to life. He created a venue for poetry to dance in. Manzarek provided the soundtrack to a moving mind. He was able to not only catch up to a rip tide of words, he made sense of them, through colors and waves of sound. Such inspiration. If it weren’t for Manzarek, Morrison would have been heard in mono.
“Listen, real poetry doesn’t say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through anyone that suits you.” -Jim Morrison
(I noted this on a facebook post yesterday, after a wonderful afternoon at a poetry reading, and today I thought about the magic behind music and poetry collaborations. Morrison, Densmore, Krieger, and Manzarek’s keyboards made that shit real. )