“You and I travel to the beat of a different drum.” Different Drum, by Michael Nesmith
In a week dominated by devastation in the Nation’s tornado alley, it was easy to miss the news that Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the Doors, had died. While Jim Morrison defined the Doors’ image with his flamboyant stage presence and apocalyptic lyrics, Manzarek defined the band’s sound, lending baroque classical flourishes to the definitive Doors song Light My Fire and propulsive jazz inflected stylings to many other of the band’s hits.
While Manzarek is best remembered for his music, his obituary also contains a Softrights-worthy footnote about a long simmering, and sometimes roiling, trademark dispute over rights in the Doors name, As reported in Billboard back in 2008, the four members of the Doors, Morrison, Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, signed a pact in 1970 that gave each of them veto power over any business deal. According to Billboard, the four Doors inked that agreement after a nasty battle about whether to let Buick use “Light My Fire” in a television commercial.
After Jim Morrison died in 1974, the remaining Doors remained largely, well, dormant. But in 2002, Manzarek and Krieger itched to return to the stage. They tried coaxing Densmore to reunite the band. Densmore declined. And though he took no issue with Ray and Robby performing the band’s music, using the Doors name was another story. “You can’t call yourselves the Doors because you can’t have the Doors without Jim Morrison,” Densmore’s lawyer was quoted as sayingthing. And when lawyers are quoted, that means only one thing–a lawsuit.
Yes, despite Densmore’s protest, Manzarek and Krieger hit the road calling themselves the Doors of the 21st Century. The tour reportedly earned them $3.2 million, none of which they shared with Densmore or Morrison’s estate. So Densmore and Morrison’s representative sued and won, blocking further use of the Doors name and getting over $5 million in damages and costs.
Manzarek and Krieger continued to perform together, calling themselves Riders On The Storm, and later, Manzarek and Krieger, with Densmore continuing to be the lone holdout to any commercial use of the Doors name or music (he reportedly nixed a $15 million deal to use “Light My Fire” in a Cadillac commercial). Shortly before Manzarek’s death, however, Densmore hinted publicly that the three surviving members might at last reunite. But with the drummer finally singing a different tune, fate, not a court, has intervened to shut the Doors.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.” Jim Morrison