Remembering Ray Manzarek: Doors Keyboardist Believed Venice Beach Helped the Band Find Its Sound

Ray Manzarek with the Doors, second from right.
Ray Manzarek, the keyboard player for the Doors, was the first rock star I ever interviewed. I'd just started writing about music, and one morning my editor called me up and asked if I'd like to interview Manzarek. I don't know if he knew I was a Doors fanatic, but I jumped at the chance. I went out and bought a cassette recorder and a contact mic with a black suction cup that stuck to the mouthpiece of my landline. Manzarek called me late one afternoon and, after I did a sound check to make sure the recorder was working properly, we started talking.

He spoke at length about music, art, poetry, and the possibility that Jim Morrison had faked his own death to get out of the glare of the spotlight. Manzarek said it would be just the kind of stunt he'd pull. Morrison had only been gone for a few years at the time of the interview, so it seemed possible that, unlike Elvis, he might still be around.

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R.I.P. Slayer's Jeff Hanneman: His Five Fiercest Moments

Slayer's Jeff Hanneman
Sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, and dickheads the world over are in mourning today, for we lost one of the greats. Jeff Hanneman, guitarist and chief songwriter of Slayer, passed on and we adored him. We thought he was a righteous dude.

As metal fans, Slayer is such a part of our everyday lives that it's easy to forget how unique and special it is. For a band that sang so much about Lucifer and Nazi doctors, the members presented themselves as they were: Four goofy dudes from L.A. playing hella fast heavy metal. No pretense. They were guys you wanted to hang with. Just look at the back cover of their landmark 1986 album Reign In Blood, arguably the greatest metal record of all time, and tell us you don't want to drink a beer with those guys. Even to posers and non-hessians, throwing up the horns and yelling "Slayer!" carries much cultural weight. Everyone knows what that means. It means you are ready to fucking rock.

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R.I.P. Mac Daddy: Kris Kross' Totally Krossed Out Was My Very First Hip-Hop Tape

Fond memories.
Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly, one half-of the '90s hip-hop duo Kris Kross, died of a possible drug overdose in Atlanta yesterday. Kris Kross, you may remember, was the duo responsible for 1992 crossover rap hit "Jump" (not to be confused with House of Pain's "Jump Around"), and for briefly popularizing the practice of wearing one's clothes backwards. It is also the group responsible for getting me to purchase my first rap tape. Or, rather, for getting my parents to purchase it for me, at a time when a working knowledge of "Jump" was basically a prerequisite for social inclusion on the elementary school playground.

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How Richie Havens' Soothing Voice Rescued the Beginning of Woodstock

Richie Havens in 1972.
Richie Havens was an old soul, singing with the voice of an ancient wise man even when he was young. Every artist strives to find their own voice, but it seemed to come naturally to Havens. His deep sandpaper and honey baritone came from some inner place of power and transformation. He was able to make every song he sang his own. Havens gained a national following when he played the Monterey Pop Festival, but it was his performance on the first day of the Woodstock Festival, Friday, August 15, 1969, that made him an international presence.

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Deftones Bassist Chi Cheng Dies at 42

Categories: R.I.P.
chi cheng.jpg

Music fans in Northern California and across the globe are in mourning today after the sad death of Deftones bassist, Chi Cheng, early Saturday morning. Chi had been in a partially-conscious state after a car crash in 2008, but bandmates, friends and fans never gave up hope that the Sacramento musician and poet would recover and return full-time to the band he had helped found. Cheng was 42.

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R.I.P. Robert Zildjian, Founder of Sabian Cymbals

Categories: R.I.P.


Cymbal-making was in Bob "RZ" Zildjian's blood. As the first generation of his family to be born on American soil, he helped shepherd in a new era of Western prosperity for the 350-year-old family brand. And when tradition got in the way of his career and aims for Zildjian, he cemented his reputation as a passionate innovator by founding Sabian -- now the second biggest cymbal manufacturer in the world.

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R.I.P. Steve Brodsky, Beloved S.F. Music Manager and Promoter

Categories: R.I.P.

Steve Brodsky with his wife, Anna.
Steve Brodsky, an artist manager, show promoter, and executive who left his mark on many aspects of the San Francisco music scene, passed away Friday night of complications from leukemia. He was 34.

Among other endeavors, Brodsky worked with local acts like Wallpaper., Midi Matilda, and others with David Lefkowitz at Figurehead Management. Brodsky was also involved in helping launch the WillCall concert app. Prior to becoming an artist manager, Brodsky worked with Mr. Roboto Presents, a promotion outfit that put on shows by YACHT, A-Trak, Too $hort, the Morning Benders, Justice, Mos Def, and many others in San Francisco.

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Patti Page: What Did She Mean By "Throw Mama From the Train?"

Patti Page, R.I.P.
I'm staggering through Walgreens Wednesday night, my brain in slo-mo, and my body numb. I'm getting a cold and I'm hoping to diminish its severity with some mass-produced placebos. My head is thick, the walls are moving and the floor is tilted. I come to a shelf packed with various remedies all promising instant relief. I blink my eyes, trying to focus, when suddenly a familiar voice comes floating through the air, singing a song I haven't heard in decades:

"Throw mama from the train a kiss, a kiss
Wave mama from the train a goodbye...."

At first, I think I'm hallucinating. The garbled syntax of the lyric echoes my own muddled thinking, but then the old memory cells kick in and I'm transported back to my youth.

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R.I.P. Sarah Kirsch, Admired Bay Area Punk Musician and Activist

Categories: R.I.P.

Sarah Kirsch
Update, 12/11/12: A memorial service for Sarah Kirsch has been planned for Sunday, Jan. 6, at 924 Gilman (time TBA). Her family is also requesting donations to help cover expenses; if you can help them out, even with $5, do so here.

Original post: Sarah Kirsch, a prolific Bay Area activist and punk musician in the groups Baader Brains, Fuel, Pinhead Gunpowder, and others, died on Wednesday, Dec. 5, after a lengthy battle with Fanconi Anemia. She was 42.

Kirsch's struggle with Fanconi Anemia, a rare genetic disorder that often causes leukemia or bone marrow failure, began shortly after she came out as a trans-gender woman in recent years. Previously she was known as Mike Kirsch. A grass roots effort to fund the mounting costs of healthcare expenses was in place for more than a year.

Steve Stevenson, owner of the record store and label 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, expressed his sadness at the news of her passing and his disappointment regarding a benefit gig scheduled for next season, at which high-profile acts were slated to reunite for Kirsch's aid.

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Dave Brubeck: The Genius Who Made Experimental Jazz Accessible

For a lot of people, jazz is just a stereotype -- a nebulous free-form art that comedians (or any of us, really) will parody without ever knowing what it's really about. Just hit some keys and scat a few syllables: jazz! And there are certainly performers who embrace the improvisational liberties offered by jazz so enthusiastically that they endanger their accessibility to mainstream audiences. However, Dave Brubeck was not only accessible but popular. His defining quartet, which toured and recorded together for 10 years (1958-1967), created the first million-selling jazz album, Time Out, in 1959 -- the same year that Miles Davis released Kind of Blue and Charles Mingus put out Mingus Ah Um (all on the same label, by the way).

Brubeck's accessibility was not the result of catering to the marketplace, but grew out of a confluence of public interest in "difficult" music and artists (Brubeck, Davis, and Mingus among them) who had been working in jazz for decades and had simultaneously matured as recording artists.

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