Music

Joining Jim Morrison in the next world: Ray Manzarek dead at 74

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Ray Mazerek, long-time keyboard player, writer, producer and part of the iconic American underground band the Doors, passed away at 74. He died in Rosenheim, Germany, after a long battle with bile duct cancer.

Born and raised in Chicago, Manzarek attended college at UCLA, where he was a film major. He met Jim Morrison, a fellow student there who hailed from the San Diego area, in a film class. They continued to happen to run into each other over the next three years, on-campus and around the L.A. area. Finally, walking on the same Venice, California beach one summer day in 1965, Morrison mentioned that he was trying to turn some of his poetry into songs. In “Light My Fire,” Manzarek’s biography from 1998, he wrote, “And there it was! It dropped quite simply, quite innocently from his lips, but it changed our collective destinies.”

Joining with the only drummer and guitar player they knew, John Densmore and Robby Krieger, the four found many opportunities to play in the burgeoning Los Angeles music scene of the mid-60’s. By 1966, they had taken their name from the Aldous Huxley book “The Doors of Perception.” This book described experiences and experiments with psychedelic substances. That year they recorded their self-titled first record with Elektra Records.

Since the band never found a permanent bassist, Ray wrote and played most of the bass lines to their music on the low end keys of his Fender Rhodes piano. The Doors’ were recognizable by the sound of his Vox Continental organ. The most well-known and enduring example is the introductory riffs to their first hit single, “Light My Fire.” The four held song-writing credits equally on almost all their songs, and reportedly evenly divided the revenues from their recordings.

After the Doors released four well-received albums, Jim Morrison died while living in Paris in July, 1971. The Doors recorded two records without him, but then the band broke up in 1973.

Ray Manzarek stayed very relevant and worked with many new artists considered part of the punk and new wave tides of music in the late 70’s and 1980’s. He produced records for X and played with Iggy Pop, Echo and the Bunnymen and many other acts.

Ray Manzarek will be remembered as an innovator of popular music for more than three decades, and a seminal influence on the music still popular today.

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