Ray Manzarek of The Doors Is Dead at 74
Legendary keyboardist dies after battle with bile duct cancer. "I will miss my musical brother," says John Densmore
Last year, as the Doors released a 40th anniversary edition of its vaunted "L.A. Woman" album, keyboardist Ray Manzarek spoke about how the then-46 years since the group broke on through to rock 'n' roll legend status have flown by.
"Time flies when you're living life," Manzarek told Billboard. "I don't know what it feels like, but it feels like no more than five years ago. Everything just goes whooshing by, like a runaway locomotive or something. And then here I am at (then) 72, thinking, 'Holy cow, how did that happen?' "
Manzarek's ride came to an end on Monday when he passed away RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, at the age of 74, after a long battle with bile duct cancer that was kept largely secret. Dorothy Manzarek, his wife of 45 years, and brothers Rick and Jim Manczarek [cq] were by his side at the hospital. He's also survived by his son Pablo Manzarek, his wife Sharmin and their children Noah, Apollo and Camille.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger -- who co-founded the Doors with Manzarek, the late Jim Morrison and drummer John Densmore in 1965 -- issued a statement says he is "deeply saddened" by Manzarek's passing. "I'm just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last Decade," Krieger said. "Ray was a huge part of my life, and I will always miss him." Twitter, meanwhile, quickly filled with tributes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- which inducted the Doors in 1993 -- the Los Angeles club Whiskey A Go-Go and the Bonnaroo Music Festival, and from artists such as Rob Zombie guitarist John5, who wrote "RIP to a fantastic musician," Disturbed/Device frontman David Draimain, who "loved his music since I was a little boy," and many others.
Densmore, in a statement, said, "There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison's words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother."
Manzarek may be best-known for his role in the Doors, provided the orchestral cadence of keyboards that colored the band's music (while providing bass lines with his left hand for much of the group's repertoire), but with a litany of other endeavors he always considered the band "part of a life in art I've been able to enjoy. It opened the door -- pun intended -- to so many other things, and as much as I enjoy still playing 'Light My Fire' and 'Break on Through' and all of that music we created together, I'm also glad it gave me a platform from which to expand and explore. I get to make music all over the world, man."
Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. was born in Chicago, where he learned top lay piano and cut short a promising basketball career after disagreeing with his high school coach about the best position for him to play. After earning an economics degree at DePaul University, Manzarek moved to Los Angeles to study cinematography at UCLA, where he met Morrison. Morrison later showed Manzarek some of the songs he had written, and the keyboardist, liking what he heard, recruited fellow Transcendental Meditation students Krieger and Densmore and formed the Doors in late 1965, famously taking the group name from the Aldous Huxley book "The Doors of Perception."
The Doors honed their uniquely dark and ambitious sound, fueled by the varied classical, jazz and blues backgrounds of its members, at Sunset Strip clubs such as the London Fog and the Whiskey A Go-Go. "We were all about peace and love like everybody else but, man, those were some dark times with Vietnam and the Civil Rights struggle and political upheaval in the country," Manzarek noted. "There was no way that couldn't soak into what we were doing and inform our music."
Signing with Elektra Records in 1966, the Doors released eight albums between 1967-71, all but one of which hit the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 and went platinum or better. After Morrison's death in 1971, the surviving trio released a pair of albums -- "Other Voices" and "Full Circle" -- with Manzarek sharing lead vocals and also collaborated on the spoken-word recording of Morrison's "An American Prayer" in 1978 and on the "Orange County Suite" for a 1997 boxed set. Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore reunited in 2000 for an episode of VH1's "Storytellers" and subsequently recorded "Stoned Immaculate: The Music of the Doors," with a variety of vocalists.
In 2002 Manzarek and Krieger started playing together again as the Doors of the 21st Century with Ian Astbury of the Cult singing, though Densmore opted to sit out and, along with the Morrison estate, sued the duo over proper use of the band name. After a short time as Riders On the Storm, they settled into Manzarek-Krieger and continued to tour. "We love playing the music, first of all," Manzarek said. "And we think it's music that should leave and breathe and be heard. I'm always hearing from kids who are turning on to the Doors' music, and I really think we should be out there playing it live for them." All three members did, however, record a track called "Breakin' a Sweat" with EDM artist Skrillex for the 2012 "Re:Generation" documentary.
After the Doors, Manzarek released three solo albums and formed a short-lived group called Nite City. He collaborated with Philip Glass on a rock version of Carl Orff's cantata "Carmina Burana" and, as a producer, worked with X and Echo & the Bunny men. Manzarek also provided music for poet Michael McClure and worked on spoken-word and poetry recordings with SRC vocalist Scott Richardson British punk rocker Darryl Read. Manzarek published a memoir, "Light My Fire: My LIfe With the Doors" in 1998 and two novels, "The Poet Exile" in 2001 and "Snake Moon" in 2006. That same year he worked with composer and trumpeter Bal on the experimental electronic recording "Atonal Head" and later recorded with Weird Al Yankovic and roots guitarist Roy Rogers.
The Manzarek family is requesting that memorial donations be made to www.standup2cancer.org.