Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, a founding member of the Doors, died today (May 20) in Rosenheim, Germany, where he was being treated for bile duct cancer. He was 74.
Manzarek is best known for his work with the Doors, who formed in 1965 when Manzarek had a chance encounter in Venice Beach, California, 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 US 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," Krieger said on the band's Facebook page. "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 was born Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. on February 12, 1939, in Chicago. He took private piano lessons as a child, but chose basketball over music at an early age. When he was 16, his coach insisted either he play guard or not at all, so Manzarek quit the team.
In the early '60s, he studied in the Department of Cinematography at UCLA, where he met Morrison, a film student. Forty days after finishing film school, Manzarek and Morrison met by chance on Venice Beach. Morrison said he had written some songs, and Manzarek expressed an interest in hearing them, so Morrison sang a rough version of "Moonlight Drive." Manzarek liked the songs and co-founded the Doors with Morrison on the spot.
Manzarek met drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger at a Transcendental Meditation lecture. Densmore says, "There wouldn't be any Doors without Maharishi."
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 standup2cancer.org.