RIP: Ray Manzarek

Posted May 21, 2013 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Organist, founding member of the Doors succumbs to cancer

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist extraordinaire and one of the founding members of The Doors, has passed away at the age of 74. According to his publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald, the famed rock ‘n roll musician passed away Monday at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, while surrounded by his family. Robinson-Fitzgerald says his manager, Tom Vitorino, confirmed Manzarek died around 3:30 p.m. EDT. He had bile duct cancer.

Manzarek founded the Doors with UCLA pupil Jim Morrison after discovering his love for poetry, which transitioned into songwriting. The L.A. band quickly moved up the ranks after performing at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and being signed to Elektra Records in 1967. Their rise to fame was encouraged after performing on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing “Light My Fire” without the recommended changed lyrics of “Girl we couldn’t get much better” culled by Sullivan’s staffers to help satisfy the censors. That yearning for youthful rebellion pushed The Doors to the top of the ladder during the psychedelic era of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

Manzarek’s musical abilities graced a number of their big hits, including the organ magic “Relight My Fire” and the psychedelic anthem “The End,” both found on the Doors’ critically-acclaimed self-titled album. Most impressive, Manzarek’s California-stoked organ style embraced the bulk of hits from the short-lived rock band. Songs like “L.A. Woman,” “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times” and the gold-certified “Touch Me” lived and breathed Manzarek’s style. At the core of the group, even with the hearthrob god-like Morrison becoming the center of attention to their legion of fans, Manzarek was the heartbeat of their musical direction and the lifeline on  sovereign rock/soul jams like “Light My Fire” and the psychedelic anthem “The End.” His spirituality also provided the group a sense of balance, something evidently proved in the 2009 documentary When You’re Strange and not necessarily embraced in the Oliver Stone-directed 1991 film, The Doors. The Stone portrayal was criticized by Manzarek in his biography of the Doors, Light My Fire. “Well, it was an Oliver Stone movie,” Manzarek told The Republican in 2007. “It’s always too far, it’s always over the top, it’s always sensational. My God, the guy just can’t get into the deep intellectual spirituality of things, can he? He can’t get into the psychological side of things. The problem with “The Doors” was that he just went sensational. He didn’t explore Jim Morrison’s wit, his charm, his cleverness, you don’t get his intellect, you don’t get his humor. There’s no humor, nobody ever laughs in the movie.”

The group disbanded after the unfortunate passing  of Morrison in 1971, after trying to recover the band as the opted-in lead vocalist for their Other Voices and Full Circle albums. Both albums were critically-acclaimed, even with Morrison’s absence, but failed to maintain their prevailing grip on rock audiences.

Over the years, Manzarek continued to reunite with living members of The Doors, pouring our his memories in his published memoir Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors and collaborating with established members in a variety of genres. He joined Daryl Hall for an episode of Live from Daryl’s House. He also recorded a number of solo albums. Most recently in 2010, he recorded Translucent Blues, an album with slide guitarist Roy Rogers.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today,” Krieger said. “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 is survived by his wife, Dorothy; his brothers, Rick and James Manczarek; his son, Pablo Manzarek; daughter-in-law, Sharmin; and three grandchildren.


Literary Kicks – Ray Manzarek

The Republican archives: The Ray Manzarek interview

Publicist: Ray Manzarek, foudning member of the Doors, dies at 74 from cancer – Washington Post

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J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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