Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek

Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek

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.

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    RIP Ray. Ray and Jim are finally together again after all of these years.

  • Ross Vachon

    Jim recognized Ray as a P.I. (profound individual). Prayers for Ray’s family and friends.

  • @psychenudity

    I keep thinking how much of a loss this is to the American cultural landscape. Guess we're at that age where the heroes of the 1960's & 70's are going to be gradually leaving us for the great gig in the sky, and THAT really sucks. There is not 1 artist that I can think of , who debuted in the last 22 or so years that is worth mentioning anything about – everything nowadays is just a "re-hash" of the what the greats laid down for the history books. Ray Manzarek was a phenomenal keyboardist, but also an icon as well…'ll be sorely missed, Ray….rest in peace.

  • Nick

    Why do these fuckers keep asking questions about Jim, when on a day that Ray Manzerak died?????????

  • Mark Rose

    Although eclipsed by the persona of Jim Morrison (as would any mortal), Ray was a genius and visionary in his own right. I'm surprised this article failed to mention that he produced Los Angeles, the seminal first album of X, and was highly involved with this band as they rose from obscurity to international acclaim. Ray left a profoundly positive footprint in this incarnation. We miss you, Ray.

  • A.Duncan

    Thanks so much, Robbie, for your special comments on Ray, so sad to learn of his passing, please keep in touch with your Fans, we miss you too!

  • Ron

    Long live the Bards!!!

  • Joe Mystery

    The Doors were the meeting of 4 great, visionary musicians. Really a miracle only surpassed by the Beatles IMO. Ray was the prime mover who put the whole thing together and deserves all the credit he has received on his passing. The idea that 4 or 5 guys can come out of the blue again and achieve something like this seems remote. It is a bit easier for me to believe that a single great artist with side people (someone perhaps like Elvis) can emerge. There are some very good artists today but no one single person has quite gotten there yet.

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    On of my first musical influences.

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