Doors’ Keyboardist Joins Napa Valley Symphony For River Fest
It’s doubtful that the late [lastfm]Jim Morrison[/lastfm] ever thought, “Some day, the Napa Valley Symphony will be playing my trademark song moments before fireworks light up the sky.”
Yet, here we are, 29 years after the front man for [lastfm]The Doors[/lastfm] died at 27, and the orchestra will, indeed, perform “Light My Fire” and “Riders of the Storm.”
But not without someone who has done the tunes more than a few times.
[lastfm]Ray Manzarek[/lastfm], original keyboardist for the iconic rock band and a Napa resident, joins the symphony under the direction of Richard Aldag at the Friends of the Napa River’s 18th Annual River Festival on Sept. 5.
Manzarek is all psyched for the performance, happily gotten this symphony thing down when he and Doors mate [lastfm]Robbie Krieger[/lastfm] performed with the Royal Philharmonic in London, the symphony in Manchester, England, and the Dublin, Ireland Symphony.
“Those three gigs were fabulous,” Manzarek said. “And to get a call from the local symphony asking me to do this (river festival), I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Manzarek said it’s the first time he’ll be opening act to fireworks as his experience with orchestras should make working with the Napa Valley Symphony a breeze.
“We’ve done it already,” he said. “So I don’t have the fear or trepidation that the orchestra will do their parts right. Everything will work out great. They’ll have charts in front of them and follow the conductor. The players won’t have any problems
“Riders in the Storm” and “Light My Fire” is enough to satisfy the fans, Manzarek said.
“Two will be plenty. They’re long songs,” he said.
What, no encore? It would be tough to follow fireworks, Manzarek said.
“Where do you go from there? Go home,” he said, eagerly awaiting the Sept. 4 rehearsal and Sunday performance downtown performing with a symphony.
“The sheer size of the whole thing,” Manzarek said. “Surrounded by a great, huge globe of music. Violins, horns, woodwinds, strings, brass, bass, violas, tympanies. It’s all there. You’re operating in this voluminous ball of sound. It’s great.”
Manzarek said it’s unfortunate he couldn’t be in the audience watching the symphony perform the Doors’ songs.
“I would love to watch us do a symphony show,” he said.
It more than helps that Manzarek lives in Napa.
“I get to drive over,” he said.
Not that he’s sitting home on the porch whittling away life at 70. Manzarek’s written an autobiography, “Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors,” and helped promote the Johnny Depp-narrated documentary, “When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors.
Manzarek also plays publicly with Krieger and is currently in a Sausalito recording studio with Vallejo native, Grammy winning blues guitarist Roy Rogers, with pending performance dates with the duo.
Can’t beat playing with the Doors musician, Rogers said Thursday.
“Ray is such a great player,” Rogers said. “Separate from being the ‘rock icon’ that he is, he is really a creative guy, and his approach to music is very intuitive, which makes it a lot of fun to perform with him.”
Manzarek’s also enjoying life as the grandfather of three, courtesy of his 35-year-old son.
Ah, to be 35 again.
“I’d have to peel back and look at the calendar and figure out where I was at 35,” Manzarek said. “That would be a lot after the Doors.”
Manzarek and Krieger did revive [lastfm]the Doors’[/lastfm] music 10 years later as several vocalists fronted the group. Never could anyone replace Morrison.
“You get someone who can sing,” said Manzarek, adding that it’s tough to keep someone around wearing those very big Morrison shoes.
“Invariably, they go back to their own bands,” Manzarek said. “It’s tough to sing Doors songs. There’s a weight that’s put on their shoulders.”
Never were Manzarek or Krieger deluded to thinking they could find another Morrison.
“Jim is Jim. He was totally unique,” Manzarek said.
Not that the keyboardist minds all the Doors tribute bands, whether the vocalist pretends to be Morrison or not.
“God bless ‘em. I love ‘em,” Manzarek said. “Most are surprisingly good.”
Just as there’s no replacing the authentic Doors, there’s no substitution for taking care of one’s body, Manzarek said.
Of course, the lifestyle was a bit different during those 1960s tours.
“My wife, Dorothy, was there to pull me out of any crazed excesses,” Manzarek said. “And after maybe the fourth or fifth hangover, I’d think, ‘I’ve got to stop doing this.’”
It’s about exercise these days, he said.
“Go for a jog. Get your body in tip-top shape,” Manzarek said.
And if you’re performing in a Midwest winter, by God, wear the proper attire. Who can forget that January book-signing appearance in Manzarek’s native Chicago.
“My wife had never had the experience,” he said. “It was 18 degrees and howling wind.”
Napa should be significantly warmer when Manzarek joins the Napa Valley Symphony for “Light My Fire.”
If you go
What: The Friends of the River’s 18th Annual River Fest
Who: Napa Valley Symphony, Ray Manzarek, Elvin Bishop
When: Sunday, Sept. 5, 2 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Downtown Napa