“Riders on the Storm” is a song by American rock band the Doors. It was released as the second single from their sixth studio album and last with singer Jim Morrison, L.A. Woman, in June 1971. It reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., number 22 on the UK Singles Chart and number seven in the Netherlands.
“Riders on the Storm” has been classified as a psychedelic rock,jazz rock,art rock song, and a precursor of gothic music. According to guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek, it was inspired by the country song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend“, written by Stan Jones and popularized by Vaughn Monroe. The lyrics were written and brought in to the rehearsal by Morrison, which portion of it refer to a hitchhiker killer. Manzarek noted that some lines express Morrison’s love to his companion Pamela Courson. The track is notated in the key of E Minor; the main keyboard riff descends throughout the pitches of Dorian Mode scale, and features a progression of i–IV–i7–IV.
It is popularly believed that “Riders on the Storm” is the song that longtime Doors producer Paul A. Rothchild disparaged as “cocktail music”, precipitating his departure from the L.A. Woman sessions, as corroborated by guitarist Robby Krieger. Rothchild himself denied this claim, stating that he actually applied this epithet to “Love Her Madly“. Following Rothchild’s departure, longtime engineer Bruce Botnick was selected to take over production duties, alongside the Doors themselves.
“Riders on the Storm” was recorded at the Doors Workshop in December 1970 with the assistance of Botnick. Morrison recorded his main vocals and then whispered the lyrics over them to create an echo effect. It was the last song recorded by all four members of the Doors, as well as Morrison’s last recorded song to be released in his lifetime. The single was released in June 1971, entering the Billboard Hot 100 the week ending July 3, 1971, the same week that Morrison died.