Ray Manzarek, Founding Member of The Doors, Dead at Age 74

Ray Manzarek in Seattle in 2009 (Photo: TriviaKing via Wikimedia Commons)

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?'"

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Manzarek's ride came to an end on May 20 when he passed away at RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, at the age of 74, following a long battle with bile duct cancer, which 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 Robby Krieger -- who co-founded the Doors with Manzarek, the late Jim Morrison and drummer John Densmore in 1965 -- issued a statement saying he's "deeply saddened" by Manzarek's passing.

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"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. Tributes also came from artists like 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.

In a statement, Densmore 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, providing 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. 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 such Sunset Strip clubs 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 and 1971. All but one 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. The three members 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. 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 Bunnymen. Manzarek also provided music for poet Michael McClure and worked on spoken-word and poetry recordings with SRC vocalist Scott Richardson and 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" (2001) and "Snake Moon" (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.

On Monday, Publicist Robinson-Fitzgerald says Manzarek's manager, Tom Vitorino issued the following statement:

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist and founding member of The Doors, passed away today at 12:31PM PT at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany after a lengthy battle with bile duct cancer. He was 74. At the time of his passing, he was surrounded by his wife Dorothy Manzarek, and his brothers Rick and James Manczarek.

Manzarek is best known for his work with The Doors who formed in 1965 when Manzarek had a chance encounterĀ on Venice Beach with poet Jim Morrison. The Doors went on to become one of the most controversial rock acts of the 1960s, selling more than 100-million albums worldwide, and receiving 19 Gold, 14 Platinum and five multi-Platinum albums in the U.S. alone. "L.A.Woman," "Break On Through to the Other Side," "The End," "Hello, I Love You," and "Light My Fire" were just some of the band's iconic and ground-breaking songs. After Morrison's death in 1971, Manzarek went on to become a best-selling author, and a Grammy-nominated recording artist in his own right. In 2002, he revitalized his touring career with Doors' guitarist and long-time collaborator, Robby Krieger.

"I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today," said Krieger. "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."

Manzarek is survived by his wife Dorothy, brothers Rick and James Manczarek, son Pablo Manzarek, Pablo's wife Sharmin and their three children Noah, Apollo and Camille. Funeral arrangements are pending. The family asks that their privacy be respected at this difficult time. In lieu of flowers, please make a memoriam donation in Ray Manzarek's name at www.standup2cancer.org.