Ray Manzarek, 74, Chicago-born keyboardist co-founded The Doors with Jim Morrison
By CHRIS TALBOTT AP Music Writer May 20, 2013 6:18PM
FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2012 file photo, Ray Manzarek of The Doors performs at the Sunset Strip Music Festival launch party celebrating The Doors at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif. Manzarek, the keyboardist who was a founding member of The Doors, has died at 74. Publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald says in a news release that Manzarek died Monday, May 20, 2013, at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
Updated: June 22, 2013 6:31AM
Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist and founding member of The Doors who had a dramatic impact on rock ’n’ roll, has died. He was 74.
Mr. Manzarek, who was born in Chicago, died Monday at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family, said publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald. Robinson-Fitzgerald said his manager, Tom Vitorino, confirmed Mr. Manzarek died around 2:30 p.m. Chicago time, after being stricken by bile duct cancer.
Mr. Manzarek grew up on the South Side, attending Everett Elementary School and St. Rita High School before enrolling at DePaul, where he graduated with an economics degree.
Mr. Manzarek headed west to UCLA, where he met Jim Morrison at UCLA film school. The two ran into each other in Venice a few months after graduation, Mr. Manzarek recounted in a 1967 interview with Billboard.
The two were kindred spirits, as Mr. Manzarek discovered when Morrison read him the lyrics for a song called “Moonlight Drive.”
“I’d never heard lyrics to a rock song like that before,” Manzarek said. “We talked a while before we decided to get a group together and make a million dollars.”
The band would make far more than that. The Doors, which also included guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, have sold more than 100 million albums and their music has been re-released and repackaged multiple times over the years, been featured prominently in movies and holds an oft-debated place in rock history.
The group is best known for hits like “Light My Fire,” “L.A. Woman,” “Break On Through to the Other Side” and “The End” and came to symbolize the decadence of Los Angeles as the counterculture grew in the U.S.
Morrison’s 1971 death in Paris brought an effective end to the band. Mr. Manzarek briefly tried to hold the band together by serving as vocalist, but eventually the group fell apart. He played in other bands over the years, produced other acts, became an author and worked on films.
Mr. Manzarek and Krieger reunited to tour as The Doors in recent years.
The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Mr. Manzarek is among the most notable keyboard players in rock history. His lead-instrument work with the band at a time when the guitar often dominated added a distinct end-times flavor that matched Morrison’s often out-there imagery and persona.
While Morrison, with his proto-celebrity lifestyle and tragic end, forever will remain the face of The Doors, one could argue Mr. Manzarek’s keyboard work was every bit as important and helped balance some of the singer’s more over-the-top moments.
His creepy organ line on “Light My Fire” adds a weirdo menace to what outwardly is a rock ‘n’ roll pick-up song. And his after-hours, lounge style on “Riders On the Storm” transforms that song into an epic.
Mr. Manzarek is survived by his wife, Dorothy, his son Pablo and two brothers, Rick and James.
Contributing: Thomas Conner