When I'm not thinking about the horrifying tornado in Oklahoma, I'm thinking about The Doors, what with the announcement of the death of Ray Manzarek. Cue the appropriate music, maybe "Riders on the Storm," "Strange Days," or "The End."
In my brain, those 60's artists are perpetually in their 30's. How strange to hear that Ray Manzarek was the same age as my mom and dad!
I heard Ray Manzarek interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air, long ago, at the beginning of this century. I can't find the interview archived at this point. Maybe Fresh Air will rerun part of it on Friday. They often do that with the death of famous artists.
It was a great interview. Manzarek comes across as such a normal guy. And why wouldn't he be? If Jim Morrison had survived another 30 years, he might have seemed fairly calm in an interview.
I was impressed with Manzarek's wide ranging knowledge of music and his skill at the keyboard, as well as other instruments.
The piano was my first instrument. I wish I had stuck with it longer. Perhaps I'll return to the piano in the fall. I have a 5 octave keyboard which would serve my purposes well.
I'm also thinking of The Doors and their influence on me as a poet. There are worse influences. Morrison had poetry interests, Rimbaud and folks like that, which don't embarrass me, but which I no longer share. I loved the surreal settings, the sense of both forboding and longing, the symbols of all sorts, from the desert to the swamp.
I'll never be the kind of person who experiments with heavy drugs--I've seen too many people with their brains burned out by those kind of experiments. But zoning out, listening to The Doors, writing poems late at night--that seems to be a special kind of mind-altering experiment/experience of its own sort.
I remember one night doing my radio show in college, listening to "The Wasp" with its lines about Texas radio and the big beat and something swampy and humid and writing a poem about a Central American refugee. I felt like I was channeling something that I couldn't quite control.
My inner apocalypse gal also loved The Doors. Their music was perfect for the end of the 60's, but it was also a good soundtrack for the end days of the Cold War. Of course, we didn't know it was the end, in the way that it was. I expected mushroom clouds, not the crumbling of the Soviet empire. Choose your favorite song by The Doors--chances are good it will fit an apocalyptic mood.
When I got to grad school, I had a Romantics professor tell us that The Doors took their band name from William Blake. Oh, William Blake, what would you make of our current time? So many doors of perception, waiting to be cleansed!
It's an interesting question, what can best do that cleansing, and different generations and people have given different answers: drugs, sex, exercise, alcohol, poetry, staying up late, poetry, good food . . .
I've spent the morning listening to interviews, reading the memories of others, listening to music. But now it's time to head off to the office, where there are many cloudy doors of perception.
For a great interview with Greil Marcus, a music philospher who wrote a book about the Doors, go here. I may stream this interview this afternoon. It makes me feel my poetry self stirring.
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