About The Song

We’re taking you back to 1971 and the iconic hit from The Doors, ‘Riders on the Storm’, as we continue our weekly feature The Story Behind The Song. A beautifully dark jazz-rock anthem, which would go on to soundtrack the lives of a generation. The song remains a crucible of deeply thematic music, rock and roll esteem, and the sad end of Jim Morrison’s life. Here we look back at the late Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek as he explains the song’s inception.

After a meeting between Manzarek and Morrison on a sunny Venice Beach in California had sparked an instantaneous creative connection between them, they formed The Doors and were a powerhouse before Morrison’s untimely death in ’71. In a 1997 interview as noted by Open Culture, Manzarek explained their chemistry “We just combined the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The Dionysian side is the blues, and the Apollonian side is classical music. The proper artist combines Apollonian rigor and correctness with Dionysian frenzy, passion and excitement. You blend those two together, and you have the complete, whole artist.”

‘Riders on the Storm’ remains one of their most pertinent tracks and a mark of the pair’s infallible connection. In the video below, Manzarek touches on Morrison’s link to the music, and how he and the rest of the band were “jamming in the studio,” before their spark ignited one of rock’s best songs. Ray shares that they began to play around with a country bop on twang guitar, when “Morrison lept up and said, ‘I got lyrics for that!’ and he had… uh… ‘Riders on the Storm’.” Manzarek then uses the video to take you through the creative process which led to the song’s fruition and the legacy it would leave.

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His performance does hold another insight into the life and times of Jim Morrison. The track was recorded just before Jim Morrison would depart for Paris with his girlfriend and love of his life Pamela Courson to get clean and rid himself of an increasingly toxic inner circle. It was this love that triumphs in the song’s lyrical landscape that drove Jim to start a new life in the French capital. Manzarek says in the video that “Jim knew he was going to Paris then” and so the tones and nuances of that infatuation feel all the more potent.

Video

Lyric

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house, we’re born
Into this world, we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm
There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah
Girl, you gotta love your man
Girl, you gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house, we’re born
Into this world, we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm