[Editor's Note: Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. Her column, Exene Says…, is her space to basically just write what's on her mind, everything from crazy life stories to political theories and observations about what's going on in this fucked up world of ours. To contact her, send all messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
In 1967, when I was 11, my favorite song was the Doors' “Light My Fire.” One day, it started playing on the car radio, and my mom turned it up so I could hear it better from the back seat. When the organ solo started, I was blown away. I'd never heard the long version. Then the guitar solo! By the time the song ended, my mind had been unlocked, and I was transformed.
The last time I saw the band's late keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, was at the Roxy last summer, when he played with X. I told him that story. I knew he had heard it a thousand times, but I just had to tell him again and say thank you. His expression implied he had never heard such a wondrous tale! He was gracious and happy to hear it.
I met Ray in 1980 after an X show at the Whisky a Go Go in LA. He came backstage, and we talked. He asked if we had recorded yet and said he'd be interested in producing a record for us. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't because we covered “Soul Kitchen.”
Punk was right on the heels of the hippies, time-wise, though it seemed as though it were music from another galaxy at the time. But punk and the Doors had everything in common.
Ray produced "Los Angeles” in 1980. At times, he was strict with us, as we were a little wild. Once, right before a take, his voice came into our headphones. "Remember . . . this . . . is forever.” Another night, he asked us if we wanted to go eat sushi; he had to explain to me that sushi was raw fish. Then he took us all out, and it was a trip! I'll never forget how amazing that was, Ray explaining ginger and wasabi and how to eat raw fish! He loved art, food, nature, living, growing, miraculous things. And just for fun, for art, but mostly because he was such a great musician, he played on some of our songs.
He was a lifelong inspiration to me in so many ways–his music, his art, his stories, his guidance. Ray had a generous, kind, strong soul. I think of Ray as a joyful shaman, a guru, a positive leader, an all-knowing guide. I don't think he was trying to be those things; he just was.
Ray's impact on society and culture worldwide cannot be underestimated. The Doors changed the course of history. His music and his memory will always be an inspiration, a mind-expanding drug, a high, a gift. Let's make sure we always value him as a spiritual force and a down-to-earth human being who opened the Doors of Perception for anyone who wanted to come in.