Welcome to the The Inaugural Legendary Keyboard Hall of Fame, hosted by How to Play Keyboard @ SimProv.
The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to collectively, as music and keyboard enthusiasts, celebrate and be inspired by some of the greatest keyboard music ever performed.
Inductee: Light my Fire - The Doors - (Keyboardist: Ray Manzarek)
This signature song, recorded in 1966 and released on their first self-titled album in January 1967, launched The Doors into stardom. The song topped the US charts for the first three weeks in July 1967 and went on to sell over one million copies.
As the album version was over seven minutes long, a single version was created that edited the song down to under three minutes. In the process nearly all of the keyboard solo highlights were removed from this more radio-friendly recording.
The Doors live extended performance of their classic song at the Hollywood Bowl 1968 can be found here. As Jim Morrison was not the most morally observant of entertainers, viewers are advised that this clip contains offensive language.
About six minutes into the Hollywood Bowl performance, a visibly drug-effected Jim Morrison bent over pointing his leather-clad behind toward the Hollywood Bowl audience. Sensing trouble, keyboardist Ray Manzarek yelled "Jim!" The warning proved effective and Morrison stood up, retook the mike and completed the song, avoiding on this occasion at least, some of the controversy that was to become a regular feature of the Doors' live performances.
The Doors family friendly performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show" September 1967 is at the top of this post. Although not considered as offensive today, the show’s producers requested that Jim change the lyrics, “girl we couldn’t get much higher” to the less drug referenced, “girl we couldn’t get much better”. After Jim “forgot” to do so and the band were subsequently “banned” from the show.
Ray Manzarek (1939-2013) learnt to play the piano piano as a child from various teachers. He was a founding member and keyboardist of The Doors from 1965 to 1973 and was responsible for composing the famous organ intro to “Light My Fire”.
When interviewed Manzarek stated: “.. we needed some way to start the song. At the rehearsal, I started playing a cycle of fifths on my Vox Continental organ. Out came a motif from the Bach "Two and Three Part Inventions" piano book I had used as a kid. It was like a psychedelic-rock minuet.”
Regarding the song’s extended keyboard solo, Manzarek told About.com: "It was exactly what we were doing at the time at Whisky a Go Go (Californian Night Club ) - letting the music take us wherever it might lead in a particular performance, just improvising. And that’s exactly the same way that solo came about."
The song’s signature keyboard sound was that of the Vox Continental combo organ, used by many 1960s bands and found in many hit singles of the era.
When performing Manzarek multi-tasked, playing the song's bass line with his left hand on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, while performing the other keyboard parts on a Vox Continental. When interviewed Manzarek explained, “We didn't use a bass player—I played the bass notes on a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass while my right hand played the Vox, which could be cranked up to a screaming-loud volume. My bass line for "Light My Fire" grew out of Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," which I loved growing up in Chicago.
The combo organ was introduced in 1962 and was designed to be used by touring musicians. It was one of the main precursors to the development of modern synthesizers. Although phased out of production in the early 1970s, it remains among the most sought-after of vintage combo organs by keyboard enthusiasts.
The Sheet Music
A simplified arrangement of this famous song can be found here. Leave a comment telling us about your favourite arrangement or more accurate transcription of this 1960s classic.
What would you consider to be a highlight in keyboard music history? Leave your nomination in the comments section for our next Legendary Keyboard Hall of Fame inductee so that together we can continue to celebrate and be inspired by all of the greatest keyboard moments in music history.
Wanting to play keyboard like Ray Manzarek but not sure where to start? Learning the keyboard is fast, easy and fun so it's never too late to realise your dream of playing this Doors classic or any other of your favourite songs or instrumental music. At SimProv you will find everything that you need to learn how to play keyboard in the shortest possible time for a fraction of the cost of private keyboard lessons. Learn more here or start your free 14 day trial today.
Happy playing, from Joanne