Musician Ray Manzarek, keyboard player of The Doors, died today in a hospital in Germany. He was 74.
Manzarek’s chance meeting with Jim Morrison at Venice Beach in 1965 led to the band’s formation. Manzarek, a Chicago native, moved to Los Angeles to study film at UCLA. He met Morrison on the Westwood campus while the future Doors frontman was briefly studying there.
“[Manzarek] was the only one at UCLA who was smart enough to know that Jim Morrison wasn’t just a jerk, like a lot of people thought. To me, that make him a genius.” – Doors guitarist Robby Krieger
It was that Venice Beach meeting that marked the beginning of The Doors, when Morrison showed Manzarek a rough version of the song “Moonlight Drive”:
After Manzarek graduated in 1965, the two met again by chance at Venice Beach and decided to start a band, adding guitar player Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Because the band lacked a bass player, Manzarek usually played the bass lines on his Fender Rhodes piano. Manzarek was the oldest in the band and occasionally sang as well.
“[Manzarek] was relentless in his pursuit of the vision. And you have to give Ray a lot of credit because he understood what Jim [Morrison] was and what was magic about Jim, and he just never backed down from that.” – Bill Siddons, former manager for The Doors
Morrison died in Paris in 1971 at age 27. Manzarek tried to hold the band together, becoming the lead singer, but it fell apart and he turned to working with other bands, producing and filmmaking. In the past decade or so, he had toured with Krieger.
The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where flowers were placed this afternoon in Manzarek’s memory.
KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis spoke with Krieger, as well as Bill Siddons, who managed the Doors from 1968 to 1972.