On Monday, May 20, 2013, Ray Manzarek, the keyboard player from The Doors, passed away at the age of 74. The music he made with Jim Morrison, John Densmore and Robby Krieger will live forever. Morrison may have been the tortured poet and...
On Monday, May 20, 2013, Ray Manzarek, the keyboard player from The Doors, passed away at the age of 74. The music he made with Jim Morrison, John Densmore and Robby Krieger will live forever. Morrison may have been the tortured poet and sex god of the band, but Manzarek channeled Brecht and the mystery of a carnival with his masterful playing. His highly original style stands out on such hits as “Riders on the Storm,” “Break on Through” and “People Are Strange.”
Today, I reflect on the passing of another child of the now distant 1960′s and as I approach my 62nd birthday, I realize what a glorious life I have lived and more importantly, how glorious it is to be alive. While I refuse to life in the past, it is perhaps true, that, for me and millions of others, the 1960′s were a unique and special moment in human history, when we almost changed the world.
Alas, the powers that rule this planet proved stronger, and the 60′s ended in a haze of drugs and disillusionment, but we did manage to stop a war that ravaged Southeast Asia and took 59,000 American lives and the lives of millions of Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotians and Cambodians. Our efforts were not in vain and it will be up to the children of the future to resurrect and complete the work for true peace and equality that my generation started.
We may have dabbled in politics and helped put an end to the madness of Vietnam, but the true heart of that time was the music. Almost 50 years have passed since the Summer of Love and the Human Be Ins, and still, whenever I hear the music of those days, I am transported to a special, timeless place where everything is pure, unadulterated joy.
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Wilson, Bob Hite, Brian Jones, Gram Parsons, Marc Bolan, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia, Tim Buckley, and so many others, all died much too young, but they left behind a living legacy of incredible music that may bring occasional tears to my eyes, but never fails to open the gateway to bliss.
And then there was that one special moment called Woodstock. When I look at footage of a young Carlos Santana, head back and eyes closed, pouring out note after note of sheer ecstasy from his guitar as he takes his music to a higher plane, how can I fail to be happy. Who can sit still when Ten Years After rocked half a million mud soaked hippies with an epic version of “I’m Going Home.” How could we fail to feel I was part of a larger soul, when Grace Slick took the stage as the sun came up and shouted, “Its time for morning maniac music,” and the Jefferson Airplane took off into the stratosphere. Of course, the entire world remembers Jimi closing out the festival, playing the most astounding version of “The Star’s Spangled Banner” ever heard.
I was lucky. I worked the stage at Woodstock and spent three days standing 10 feet from the center of the musical universe, but as I gazed out over the ocean of humanity in the crowd, I realized they were sharing my pleasure. The beautiful young woman I left behind in a tent on the hill behind the stage was forgotten. The mud and rain no longer mattered; I learned on that stage the most important lesson of my life; how to become one with the music.
I could go on forever remembering those days, and I hope I will go on forever, into whatever the future may bring. I leave you with my poem about the glorious days of the 1960′s and I hope every one of you are blessed with your own special moment in time that will provide never ending joy and inspiration as you journey through life.
I WAS THERE
by Wolff Bachner
Copyright 1998 and 2008
Kerouac aint comin back
Dean took the final trip
and angelheaded hipsters
now hustle sunset strip
San Francisco aint kool no more
but it’s still very gay
except the folks are fading fast
cause aids got in the way
Timothy Leary is finally dead
he’s in search of the holy host