Remembering Giants: A tribute to some of 2013s fallen rock legends

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Editorials, News Updates
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by “alvarosa” via Flickr Creative Commons

A couple weeks ago, I walked by the newly dedicated “Adam Yauch Park” in Brooklyn, New York, around the area in which the ex-Beastie Boy grew up. I had heard about the park and actually read the speeches that his former bandmates, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, though I did not realize exactly where in Brooklyn I was until I spotted the park sign. That sight got me thinking about MCA (Adam Yauch’s alter-ego) and how influential he has been on music.  A year of reflection on MCA’s life has also seen the death of several other great artists, two of whom I would like to commemorate here.

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Ray Manzarek of the Doors (by Damiano Skrbec via Flickr Creative Commons)

On the 20th of May, one Ray Manzarek died of bile duct cancer in Germany.

I first experienced Keyboardist Ray Manzarek’s work with the 1960s-1970s rock band, the Doors, in the music library of a hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey in 2008.  My mother had told me about how great the Doors were, though I had neglected to go out of my way to check them out until I stumbled upon their “best of” at this hotel.  The first section of “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” struck me as very solid rock n’ roll, though the second Manzarek begins soloing on his screeching organ, I was completely blown away.  Never before had I heard a keyboard used so dramatically and so dominantly in  a song.  I heard influences of jazz, gospel, church choir music, psychadelia and classical meshed into every note of pure rock.  For me, every Doors song had the same effect on me.  I begin doing some investigating regarding the band’s background and quickly found that during live performances Manzarek played all keyboard parts with his right hand while keeping the bassline with his left hand on a separate part of the keyboard designed specifically for that purpose.  The pure talent of this musician still strikes me today as I listen to that same compilation that introduced me to his prowess 5 years ago.  His legacy should never die as long as the piano still exists.

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Richie Havens (by Pat Wi via Flickr Creative Commons)

While Manzarek is a relatively famous musician that is in fact recognized for the talents I just described, a more unsung hero of the 1960s also passed away this spring.  On April 22, 2013, Richie Havens, the opener for the 1969 Woodstock music and arts festival, died of a heart attack after complications from kidney surgery had already required him to give up touring.  Richie Havens represents a different side of the 60s than Manzarek.  Havens doesn’t represent the experimental, psychedelic genre of the era’s music but rather a type of raw, power-driven soul.  His opening song at Woodstock, “Freedom” a totally improvised solo piece, resonated with every single person in the audience that day and every single person who has seen the footage since.   Multi-instrumentalist Dave Grohl has publically condemned the music industry’s heavy use of electronics as a crutch for less than mediocre musicians and has promoted the special magic of recording a song live.  Richie Havens embodied that ideology that fateful day in 1969.  He sang words that came directly from his mind and heart, without getting caught up in a complex composition session. He played what he felt; that type of music is something special and something you don’t really see anymore.

To Ray Manzarek and Richie Havens, I wish that you rest in peace.  Thank you for your music and your impact.

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