Health's Jake Duzsik on the Doors' Ray Manzarek

The death Monday of Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek was a sad mark in the ledger of L.A. rock history.

But although the Doors are a classic-rock radio staple, the band's vision of L.A. -- seductive and evil, gaudy and threatening -- has stayed powerful for younger artists in the city as well.

On the surface, the L.A. experimental noise quartet Health sounds little like the Doors -- it's recently played Coachella, the FYF Fest and scored the soundtrack to the video game "Max Payne 3." But the quartet shares the Doors' sense of Los Angeles as a city of intertwining lust and violence, and Manzarek's ear for re-imagining how a rock band could work.


Health's singer-guitarist Jake Duzsik wrote this reflection Monday on the passing of the founding keyboardist of one of his favorite bands:

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I tend to hate people who hate the Doors. 

As a Los Angeles musician, this comes up a lot. Over the years I've come to employ the question, "What do you think about the Doors?" as a litmus test for whether or not I want to suffer the 2 a.m. musings of some barroom pontiff.  If it's late, and I've been drinking, and you respond with, "Always hated 'em," chances are I'm going to tell you to go to hell. Especially tonight, because I love the Doors, and Ray Manzarek is dead.

I can't count myself among those who knew him personally. Aside from a musical thumbprint (second only to Jim Morrison's boozy baritone croon) on what I consider to be the ultimate L.A. band, I know very little about his life.  What I do know, almost innately, is the legend. 

For those of us reared on bong hits of dirt weed and Lizard King posters, Jim Morrison's death loomed like an ancient cosmic event.  It was just as hard to fathom that he had been here at all as it was to grasp that he was gone forever. His mysterious demise cloaked him in immortality.

But the band's brooding, carnivalesque alchemy predated that. It was monumental, daunting and tacky -- much like our city itself.  Perhaps this is what makes the commonplace nature of Manzarek's  passing -- old and infirm -- feel so oddly singular.

The mythological entity of "The Doors" subverted the mundane reality of life (and ultimately, of death). But beyond the band's best-of albums and the bootleg T-shirts, there's the inescapable truth that this music was made by men, and whether or not they accomplish great things or do nothing much at all, men get old and die. 

Of the countless times I've heard the kinetic organ pulse that announces my favorite debut album of all time, I've not often thought of Raymond Daniel Manzarek as a man apart from his band's myth.  So it's strange to consider that the broad hands that tracked those chords over 40 years ago might also have been covered in skin as thin as paper as they lay cold yesterday in a hospital bed in Rosenheim, Germany. 

It reminds me that whether we play music or just get to listen, we only get to do it for awhile. He did it well.