I saw Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for the Doors who died today, at a poetry show with Michael McClure at the Bottom Line nightclub in New York City a few years ago. I was awestruck by both legends on that stage: McClure for being a Beat Generation poet and Ray Manzarek for being the most exciting keyboard player in the history of rock, the architect of the “Light My Fire” sound, a key literary/avant-garde scenester of the hippie and post-hippie era, and the enabler of Jim Morrison.
I wasn’t actually blown away by the Bottom Line poetry show, maybe because I like Michael McClure and Ray Manzarek too much individually for the tastes to go together. But, looking for a YouTube video with which to pay tribute to great Brother Ray today, I skipped the obvious Doors selections and settled instead on a McClure/Manzarek performance uploaded in 2008. Manzarek plucks shimmering riffs from “Riders on the Storm” while McClure says stuff like this:
i am my abstract alchemist of flesh made real
The luminescent celestial canvas of “Riders” is a good example of Ray Manzarek at his best. It’s good to see in this late-career video that maturity did not dim Manzarek’s spiritual major key brightness, nor slow his tempo. He died of cancer at the age of 74. As McClure says: O Muse!