Ray Manzarek, a founding member of The Doors whose versatile and often haunting keyboards complimented Jim Morrison’s gloomy baritone and helped set the mood for some of rock’s most enduring songs, has died. He was 74.
Manzarek died Monday in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family, said publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald. Robinson-Fitzgerald said his manager, Tom Vitorino, confirmed Manzarek died after being stricken by bile duct cancer.
The Doors’ original lineup, which also included drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robbie Krieger, was only together for a few years. But the band has retained a large and obsessive following decades after Morrison’s death, in 1971.
The Doors have sold more than 100 million records and songs such as “Light My Fire” and “Riders on the Storm” are still “classic” rock standards.
Next to Morrison, Manzarek was the most distinctive-looking band member, his glasses and wavy blond hair making him resemble a young English professor more than a rock star. Musically, Manzarek’s spidery organ on “Light My Fire” is one of the most instantly recognizable sounds in rock history.
Manzarek continued to remain active in music well after Morrison’s death and briefly tried to hold the band together by serving as vocalist. He played in other bands over the years, produced other acts, became an author and worked on films.
Morrison and Manzarek met at UCLA film school and ran into each other a few months after graduation, Manzarek recounted in a 1967 interview with Billboard.
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.”
Manzarek is survived by his wife, Dorothy, his son Pablo and two brothers.