Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors

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"The best book yet about The Doors." --Booklist

The inside story of the Doors, by cofounder and keyboard player Ray Manzarek. Includes 16 pages of photos.

"A refreshingly candid read...a Doors bio worth opening." --Entertainment Weekly
No other band has ever sounded quite like the Doors, and no other frontman has ever transfixed an audience quite the way Jim Morrison did. Ray Manzarek, the band's co-founder ...

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"The best book yet about The Doors." --Booklist

The inside story of the Doors, by cofounder and keyboard player Ray Manzarek. Includes 16 pages of photos.

"A refreshingly candid read...a Doors bio worth opening." --Entertainment Weekly
No other band has ever sounded quite like the Doors, and no other frontman has ever transfixed an audience quite the way Jim Morrison did. Ray Manzarek, the band's co-founder and keyboard player, was there from the very start--and until the sad dissolution--of the Doors. In this heartfelt and colorfully detailed memoir, complete with 16 pages of photographs, he brings us an insider's view of the brief, brilliant history...from the beginning to the end.
"An engaging read." --Washington Post Book World

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
June 1998

In the summer of 1965, Ray Manzarek ran into Jim Morrison on the sands of Venice Beach. Morrison mentioned that he had written lyrics for a couple of songs; he sang them for Manzarek, who was amazed. He said, "Jim, man, with your words and my keyboard — there's nobody doing this. What we're gonna do, nobody on the planet is doing. This music, our music, is called...psychedelic." Combining with the talents of Robby Krieger and John Densmore, they went on to create an original sound that transformed a generation and spawned The Doors. "In that year we had an intense visitation of energy," Manzarek says. "That year lasted from the summer of 1965 to July 3, 1971."

For the first time, the only person who was there from the beginning tells the inside story of the wild life of The Doors and Jim Morrison. Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors goes behind the scenes to tell how The Doors came into existence. From gigs on Sunset Strip — home of the famed Whiskey-a-Go-Go — to a record deal with Elektra, from their first No. 1 hit, 1967's "Light My Fire," to their final recording session for "L.A. Woman," the book covers it all and lays to rest the many rumors that have surrounded the band and Jim Morrison for years. Manzarek gives an original, firsthand account that nobody else in the world could tell. Ray was there from the beginning and saw it all.

From the Publisher
"The best book yet about The Doors." --Booklist
. . .[I]f you can overlook Manzarek's predilection for New Age psychobabble. . .Fire provides a refreshingly candid read. . .an uncommonly revealing portrait of this paradigm-shifting group. . .
Entertainment Weekly
Peter Kurth

"We don't know what happened to Jim Morrison in Paris," Ray Manzarek insists in his autobiographical memoir of Morrison and the Doors, titled, perhaps inevitably, Light My Fire. "To be honest, I don't think we're ever going to know. Rumors, innuendoes, self-serving lies, psychic projections to justify inner needs and maladies, and just plain goofiness cloud the truth." Manzarek was "musical leader" and keyboard player for The Doors, but his book, as it must be, is overwhelmingly about crazed, quixotic, muddle-headed Jim. "It really doesn't matter how an artist exits on the planet," Manzarek thinks. "It's the ART ... that matters. It's only the art that matters ... For me, that's what making music is all about. Plucking the notes out of the void. And for Jim it was about plucking the words out of the ether ... Images. Deep and penetrating. Confessional. Sometimes mundane, often profound. Never without meaning."

Manzarek and Morrison met at the UCLA Film School in 1963, and much if not all of Light My Fire concerns the powerful, quasi-mystic bond the two men formed as students. Morrison came to California from swampy Florida and Manzarek from Chicago, but both had read the same books, seen the same movies and dreamed the same dreams. Morrison was "in love with the possibility that he could be an artist," Manzarek says. "In love with the idea of freedom! Freedom of expression, freedom of thought." Although Manzarek has written a conventional narrative that includes his own childhood and the multiple peregrinations of the four Doors up until Morrison's death in 1971, it is to Jim the Artist, Jim the Poet, Jim the Prophet that he always returns, writing in a tone so elegiac and in prose so thick with wonder it begins to fog your brain -- appropriately enough, when you think about the Doors. The band's life was short, and the mystique that still attaches to its name is in the nature of an urban legend. The bulk of the Doors' work seems badly dated, and the cultlike following they still enjoy says more about nostalgia than about music.

"We were inside the song," Manzarek writes of the Doors' first musical session in Santa Monica. "And we were inside each other. We had given ourselves over to the rhythm, the chord changes, and the words. We had let go of our individual egos and surrendered to one another in the music ... There was only the music. The diamond was formed and it was clear and hard and luminous." Almost any page of Light My Fire contains similarly high-flown riffs: "We'll never make art again. We'll never make love on stage again. Jim and I will never do our Dionysius-and-Apollo dichotomy thing again." Manzarek writes of Morrison as an almost diagnosable split personality -- good boy/bad boy, "Jim" and "Jimbo" -- and attributes Morrison's drug-soaked demise plain and simple to "that rotter, Jimbo. The DoppelgSnger." It's as convincing a description of a whacked-out artist as any other. And when he isn't eulogizing, or lambasting Oliver Stone, or lamenting the triumph of materialism in America, Manzarek provides a reliable inside account of the Doors and their era. We may not ever find out what happened in Paris, but there's enough rock history here to keep Manzarek on the shelves. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Legendary Doors keyboardist Manzarek cannot seem to figure out whether his close friend and bandmate Jim Morrison's wild antics were the result of a poetic desire to push the envelope as far as the singer could, or if the famous 1960s rebel (who died in Paris at the age of 27) was just a gifted drunk. This ambivalence gives rise to an interesting, open-minded chronicle of one man's (Morrison's) alcoholism and its impact on his loved ones. Manzarek surely loved Morrison--they were friends and collaborators before either man had met the other two musicians who would complete the Doors's lineup, drummer John Densmore (whom Manzarek claimed Morrison never liked) and guitarist Robby Krieger, who penned "Light My Fire," "Touch Me" and "Love Me Two Times" with little or no help from famed lyricist Morrison. Manzarek takes every opportunity to philosophize about the ills of capitalist America, and he incessantly, passionately alludes to Greek mythology, Hinduism and Christianity when relating tales of his rock band's rise and fall. It's all love, peace, happiness and Morrison, except for the caustic passages regarding Oliver Stone and his big-budget biopic, The Doors, which Manzarek despises. "Grow up and see it like it really is, you fascist," the keyboardist writes at one point, which makes one wonder why Manzarek, an award-winning filmmaker and graduate of the UCLA film school, didn't make the movie himself. 16 pages of photos, not seen by PW. (July)
. . .[I]f you can overlook Manzarek's predilection for New Age psychobabble. . .Fire provides a refreshingly candid read. . .an uncommonly revealing portrait of this paradigm-shifting group. . . -- Entertainment Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
If anyone were to write a Jim Morrison tell-all, band- and soulmate Manzarek would be the man. But, to his everlasting credit, he didn't. Using his Doors experiences as the hook, Manzarek reels readers in with personal, often charming, if occasionally cloying, reflections on his life before, during, and since the Doors. He begins with his childhood in a working-class Chicago neighborhood, where his parents introduced him to the sensuous pleasures of the blues and meat-eating (a recurring theme—don't ask). Later he attended UCLA film school, where he met Morrison. From there, the two lives followed parallel paths to different destinations. Manzarek, the more responsible (or less volatile), met and married his sweetheart, Dorothy, his wife to this day. Morrison became the band's charismatic front man whose fixation with nihilism and violent imagery, when mated to his heavy drinking and drug use, created what Manzarek calls "Jimbo," a sociopathic, drunken brute, "a monster. the creature who eventually took Jim to Paris and killed him." Rather than luxuriate in the sordid details of Morrison's self-destruction, however, the author mostly prefers to revel in the giddy pleasures of life with the band: the genteel poverty of the early days; camaraderie and bickering among Doors members while on tour; success as known at the top; and even the truth about the Doors' ill-starred 1969 concert in Miami (for the record, Morrison never exposed himself). If Manzarek feels any rancor over the end of the Doors—he claims that Jim's 1971 sojourn in Paris was a hiatus, not a break-up—it is directed toward the hangers-on who steered Morrison down his path to self-smashing. AlthoughManzarek does reserve choice words for the director of the Doors movie, Oliver Stone, such as "fascist," "psychotic," and "bonehead." Whatever. Even these screeds make this pop-culture memoir more engaging. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425170458
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Edition description: BERKLEY BO
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 582,353
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Ray Manzarek was a cofounder and member of The Doors. After Morrison's death in 1971, he went on to produce the seminal punk rock band X, and to record some solo projects, including the critically acclaimed Golden Scarab with Tony Williams and Larry Carlton. He has directed three platinum-selling videos on The Doors as well. When not in the studio, he tours live with Obie award-winning beat poet Michael McClure.
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Interviews & Essays

Before the live chat, Ray Manzarek agreed to answer some of our questions.

Q:  Why did you decide to write this book more than 25 years after Jim Morrison's death and the end of The Doors?

A:  I wanted to write a book that would help serve as a bridge into the 21st century. That would, perhaps, serve as a guide to the future. That would give some insight into the mind of the '60s and help kindle a reawakening of artistic and spiritual impulses in the young people of today -- who, after all, will create the future! And to dispel a lot of the silly exaggerations about the "crazy and wild" Jim Morrison. Also, most of the books about Jim were written by people who weren't even there. I'm tired of them.

Q:  What are your thoughts on the 1991 Oliver Stone movie "The Doors"?

A:  The movie was wrong! Jim was not a jerk and drunk all the time. He was a sensitive poet: artistic, witty, funny, and charming. Oliver Stone is a dope. Got it really wrong. It wasn't made by a psychedelic person. It really seems to be a movie about Aerosmith or The New York Dolls.

Q:  Who would you consider some of your literary influences? What about musical influences?

A:  I would list my musical influences as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bill Evans, Joe Zawinul, Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderly, and Ravi Shankar.

Q:  How would you describe Los Angeles in the late 1960s? What do you think about current-day Los Angeles?

A:  L.A. in the 1960s: a palace of spiritual search. A hedonist's delight. An artistic hotbed of creativity. An anger at the war in Vietnam. Clean, alive, excited, throbbing, sexual, spontaneous, sun-infused.

Today it's different -- angry. (But then, isn't all of America? We need a psychedelic revival. We really need to get off crystal meth and crack. "White powder" equals bad stuff.) We're angry at each other. Road rage! Bad drugs. AIDS. Too much booze. Gang shootings. Bad schools. Teenage unwed mothers. Greed at the top. Fear and depression at the bottom. Sounds like where you live, too...huh?

Let's change it around. Let's reinvent the gods, all the myths of the ages. Let's discover the Christ, the Buddha within ourselves. Let's become the lovers that Jesus wanted us to be. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." You are your neighbor. You are all things. You are God.

The future belongs to the lovers.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    This is the Best Book.

    Light My Fire:My life with The Doors Ray Manzarek A short description of the main characters would be that one is the legendary Jim Morrison. Another character in this story is Ray Manzarek .Ray was the keyboardists in the musical group The Doors. But you can¿t forget about Jim¿s girlfriend Pam who is explained very early in the story. The plot of this story is very basic. It first takes place in Venice Beach,California 1965.Then as the story moves along it also goes onto the places they toured and so on so fourth.It later goes on to Paris where Jim later moves with girlfriend Pam.Then in the end it goes back and fourth through Paris and the U.S. The setting to be honest was changing in almost every chapter but it still stayed mainly in America.The time was probley through 1965-1971.The basic theme of this story is the right on real story of Jim Morrison and his tragic death and how experimenting with drugs may not be the smart thing to do. All it really adds up to is that staying off drugs and not drinking to much booze. I LOVED this story because it really teaches you a lesson on how not to die fast in your early 20¿s.I would recommend it to die-hard The Doors Fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2006

    Light The Fire

    To capture the poet inside Jim Morrison for all the world to see, is what Ray Manzarek does in his book Light My Fire. He goes beyond the typical realm of how of what a lust god Jim Morrison was, or the extreme amount of drugs he did, etc. This is a book of experienced that took place during the psychedelic era, the era of free thought and free will. This book shows not just the wild, sexy, lead singer of the rock group The Doors Jim Morrison, but the intelligent, beautiful, poetic James Douglas Morrison as well. Manzarek expresses his bonded, unspoken emotions about the every day person/friend outside of the rock star life. I liked this book very much. It gave me a different perspective on one of the people that my generation and me look up to outside the stereotypical image fed to us. I certainly recommend this book to all people interested Jim Morrison or Ray Manzarek for the fact that you will be fascinated by the real encounter of situations instead of just passed down, tainted versions of information. Manzarek does a novel job on this writing and has me speechless from such a well delivered ¿in my experience¿ book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2006

    C'mon, baby, Light My Fire!!

    I was looking for a Doors or Jim Morrison bio that would tell the real story, and NOT talk about false negativity- and who better to write this than Ray Manzarek, the cofounder of The Doors? Ray is a very talented writer, and I couldn't put the book down, stayed up till 2 o 3 in the morning reading it...recommend it to all Doors fans!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2005



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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2004

    Awesome Book!!!!!!!!

    Manzarek does an amazing job at describing his experience as a 'Doors' member. He focuses much attention on Jim Morrison, who he seems to see the better side of than most people. Reading this book made me wish I was a good friend of Manzarek. His descriptions are very real, and I couldn't put the book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2003

    by far the best book about the doors

    I have read quite a few books about the doors, but this is by far the best. Not only is Ray Manzarek a brilliant musician, but he is also a wonderful story teller. Ray truly loved Jim and shows in this book. There are some great stories about early doors days, UCLA, Ray before going to L.A. listening to blues in Chicago. If you only read 1 book on the doors make sure this is the one!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2001

    Absolutely Outstanding!!

    What can I say! It's like being in a room all alone with Ray and having the stories told to you one by one. This book is great! The stories are pure. They are told with the sincere interest of a man describing his friend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2001

    FiRe LiTe AgAiN

    This book is one of the most intriguing books i've ever read before.Lets just put it this way you are living the life that Ray lived you are watching it all happen before your eyes.This book takes you to the limits and then brings you back.I would strongly reccomend this book to young or old doors fans.When the doors of perception in your mind are cleasned your reality of the doors will have a clear view after you read the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001


    Just as Patricia Kennealy's 'Strange Days' is overwritten, Manzarek's book is definitely underwritten. Don't get me wrong - it is a great book and Manzarek does a great job taking us along with him down memory lane. However, I think that Ray could and should have written more considering he was in the one of, if not the (to my mind), prominent and seminal bands of the 1960's. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek includes the reader along on his journey from his roots in Chicago to the end of the Doors as a group in Los Angeles. I was disappointed that Manzarek did not describe to us his first visit to Morrison's grave: what did he feel? what was he thinking? Surely someone who spent as much time with Jim Morrison as Ray could have provided us with such insights. When he recalls the time Morrison walked into the Doors studio with a woman who had a bruised thigh and told Manzarek that Morrison had hit her with a board, Manzarek doesn't even question Morrison about it. At least he doesn't tell us in his book. Wouldn't you even ask your friend about this had this happened to you? Manzarek does not even go into the relationship between Morrison and Patricia Kennealy. He simply states, 'she fell in love with him. Madly.' That's it? How did he know this? Didn't Jim talk to Ray about it even slightly? Again, they are friends, and friends talk to each other. (I don't mean probing and/or gossiping, but sharing experiences.) Oh well, I guess guys don't do that kind of thing. But still, how did Ray know about this? Despite what I think are the shortcomings to this book, I did enjoy reading it. It leaves the reader wanting to go back in history during the 60's in America and take part in the seminal era musically, politically, and otherwise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2000

    Awesome book, really got me hooked

    I was never a Doors fan before this book, my sister mentioned it and I love it, who could tell the story better than someone who was there from the very beginning? Although at some parts I felt that Ray was spreading 60's pixie dust over the whole picture, it was a good detailed account of the Doors and their fame. Also, gave good insight on Jim himself. I'm eager to read more about the doors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2000

    Manzarek Justifies The Doors

    I'm only 3/4 through the book, but it's captivating. You get a different perspective on The Lizard King, and the band called The Doors. Through trails and tribluations, they made it. It's only too bad Morrison didn't.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2000

    Outstanding writing, Ray is a leader

    A fantasically well-written account of Ray's life and his love of music during his continued spiritual search.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2009

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