×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Doors Keyboardist Ray Manzarek Dies at 74

Ray Manzarek, best known for his signature organ sound as keyboardist and co-founder of the Doors with Jim Morrison, died at age 74 today at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, after a sustained battle with bile duct cancer.

PHOTOS: Ray Manzarek Dies at 74

Manzarek formed the Doors in 1965 with fellow UCLA film school student Morrison after a chance encounter at Venice Beach. They would recruit drummer John Densmore and Robbie Krieger, which became a fixture on the Sunset Strip in 1966.

The band’s eponymous debut album, released in 1967 on Elektra Records, produced the hit single “Light My Fire,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song, cut down from seven minutes for radio play, fully epitomized the Doors’ music, with Manzerek’s swirling Vox Continental combo organ and Morrison’s almost cryptic baritone setting the band apart from the Summer of Love psychedelia of the day.

Their recordings — alternately rough-and-tumble rock, jazz-inspired improvisation and Brechtian, existential musings — were so exotic that no group could be mistaken for the foursome. The band, whose name hailed from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book “The Doors of Perception,” would release six studio albums by the time of Morrison’s death in 1971. Because the band lacked a bassist, Manzarek usually played the bass parts on a Fender Rhodes piano. They would sell more than 100 million albums worldwide, producing 19 Gold, 14 Platinum and five multi-Platinum albums in the U.S.

Although Manzarek — a thinking man’s musician more attuned to the extended jams associated with jazz than the three-minute statements of the rock and pop realm — kept the Doors’ and Morrison’s flame alive with a number of related projects after their frontman died, he continued to be instrumental in the L.A. music scene, principally as a producer of the seminal L.A. punk band X. Of Morrison, Manzarek told Variety in 2011: “He was a poet. A Dionysus to my Apollo. A great performer, a shaman. And a damn good friend.”

He wrote a memoir, “Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors,” that was published in 1998, along with a novel, “The Poet in Exile” (2001), which explored the urban legend that Morrison might have faked his death. Manzarek’s second novel, “Snake Moon,” a Civil War ghost story, was released in 2006.

His illness “was ongoing,” according to his manager Tom Vitorino. He had been undergoing therapy in Germany, and “feeling better,” but his condition took a turn for the worse as recently as Thursday.

A longtime L.A. resident and impresario, Manzarek had been living in Napa Valley for about 10 years before his death, and had played with a number of local bands in the area. Over the years, he collaborated with artists like Echo and the Bunnymen, Iggy Pop and the San Francisco poet Michael McClure.

Up until his death, Manzarek was playing with Krieger, performing Doors music.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today,” said Krieger in a statement through Manzarek’s publicist. “I’m just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last decade. Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.”

Adds Vitorino: “He was a vibrant, exciting artist. Regardless of his age, he was still creative and at the height of his powers.”

His wife Dorothy Manzarek and his brothers Rick and James were with him at the time of his death.

Manzarek is also survived by his son, Pablo Manzarek, Pablo’s wife Sharmin and their three children Noah, Apollo and Camille. Funeral arrangements are pending.

More Music

  • Kenny Dixon, Drummer for Country Star

    Kenny Dixon, Drummer for Country Star Kane Brown, Dies in Car Accident

    Kane Brown and his fans are mourning the death of the country star’s drummer, Kenny Dixon, in an automobile accident in Tennessee Saturday. “I’m gonna miss you so much man. I’d always come back and jam out with u,” Brown tweeted on Sunday, posting a photo of himself standing on the drum riser grinning at [...]

  • Chambers Brothers

    George Chambers, of 1960s Hit Group the Chambers Brothers, Dies at 88

    George “Pops” Chambers, singer and bassist for the Chambers Brothers, best known for the 1968 hit “Time Has Come Today,” died Saturday at 88. “The best big brother you could ever have,” Willie Chambers wrote on his Facebook page Sunday night. “I am so sad, and at the same time, I’m so glad to have [...]

  • Stock market

    Trading In Music's Futures: How to Cash In on the Industry's Gold Rush (Guest Column)

    The music industry is entering a time of financial prosperity thanks to the widespread use of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal. According to a recent report by Musicwatch, 77% of all internet users in the U.S. stream music, while Goldman Sachs projects a revenue pot of $34 billion by 2030. Finally, the [...]

  • Vampire Weekend - Brian Robert Jones,

    Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, Rufus du Sol to Headline Okeechobee Festival

    Today, Insomniac Events announced the lineup for the fourth edition of Florida’s Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. The four-day event will return to Sunshine Grove in Okeechobee, Florida March 5-8, 2020 with a multi-genre lineup led by Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, Rufus du Sol and Bassnectar, along with over 100 other artists across a [...]

  • Member of South Korean Girl Group

    Korean Pop Star Sulli Dies at 25

    Korean pop star Sulli was found dead at her home near Seoul on Monday. She was 25. Her manager found her body and alerted the police. The manager reported that the star, whose real name was Choi Jin-ri, suffered from depression, and police said that they were working on the assumption that she had died [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content