Ray Manzarek 1939-2013

By | Published on Thursday 23 May 2013

Ray Manzarek

Founder member of The Doors, keyboard player Ray Manzarek died on Monday, aged 74. He had been suffering from bile duct cancer.

Born Raymond Manczarek in Chicago in 1939, the future Doors keyboardist took piano lessons while growing up, but was initially more interested in playing basketball professionally. He attended DePaul University to study economics, before moving to UCLA to study cinematography in 1962. There he met his future wife, Dorothy Fujikawa, who he married in 1967, and Doors frontman and fellow film student Jim Morrison.

It wasn’t until after they left university in 1965 that The Doors formed. During a chance meeting, Morrison mentioned that he had written some songs and sang an early version of ‘Moonlight Drive’ for Manzarek. The pair decided to form a band at that point, the line-up being completed by drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger, whom Manzarek had met at a transcendental meditation seminar.

Manzarek’s keyboard playing was integral to the development of The Doors’ sound, both in his distinctive lead parts, and the basslines he played in lieu of a bass guitar player, which the band never had.

Signing to Elektra in 1966 (following a very brief period on Columbia), the band released their eponymous debut album in 1967, releasing a total of six studio albums before Morrison’s death in 1971 (and then a further three after his death, using recordings of Morrison reading poetry). Attempts to carry on after Morrison’s death were not so successful, however, and the band split two years later.

Manzarek was then involved in a number of other musical projects over the subsequent four decades. He also led a number of bands with Robby Krieger, performing Doors songs with a variety of line-ups, under names like The Doors Of The 21st Century, D21C, Riders On The Storm and, from 2001 until his death, Manzarek-Krieger (such projects having been blocked from using the name The Doors by an injunction taken out by Densmore).

Manzarek also wrote an autobiography and two novels, the first of which explored the idea that Morrison faked his own death. He is survived by Fujikawa, their son Pablo, their three grandchildren, and his brothers Rick and James.