Ray Manzarek is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he didn't win the honor simply because he was Jim Morrison's baby-sitter. Indeed, Manzarek is evidence that the Doors were a band far more than a musical backdrop for the headline-grabbing antics of the group's manic lead singer, as the very notion of forming a band in the first place was initially pitched by Manzarek to Morrison on the beach in Venice, California, in 1965. It was then and there that the melding of moody, stripped-down jazz and blues-based melody with esoteric, Rimbaud-influenced poetry was introduced to rock music. The Doors, along with the Velvet Underground, spurred dozens of acts of the '70s to make brooding music that blatantly celebrated the id, at a time when many wanted only to hold your hand.
When Morrison was found dead in a bathtub in Paris in 1971, Manzarek gathered himself and soldiered on. In fact, Manzarek still collaborates with an off-the-wall poet, though he undoubtedly finds it far less stressful working with Michael McClure than with the drunken, unpredictable counterculture icon that was Jim Morrison. McClure's beatnik poetry is read to gentle jazz and classical strains from Manzarek's piano. The two released a film of one of their performances, The Third Eye, in 1997. It all goes to show that Manzarek, like his deceased bandmate, is a rider on the storm, not coattails.