Ray Manzarek was born in Chicago, Illinois, on February 12, 1939. After moving to California, Manzarek became a founding member of the Doors, the psychedelic rock band. The Doors split up soon after the death of lead singer Jim Morrison, but Manzarek continued to work as a successful musician, producer and writer. Manzarek died in Rosenheim, Germany, on May 20, 2013, at the age of 74.
Ray Manzarek was born Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. on February 12, 1939, in Chicago, Illinois. He trained as a classical organist and pianist during his childhood. After studying economics at DePaul University, Manzarek moved to California, where he attended film school at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Success with the Doors
In 1965, Manzarek happened to run into fellow UCLA student Jim Morrison on a beach in Venice, California. After hearing some of Morrison's poetic song lyrics, Manzarek suggested that they form a band. Lead singer Morrison and keyboardist Manzarek were soon joined by guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Together, the four men made up the Doors. Each member brought something special to the band, with Manzarek offering his powerful keyboard skills and classical, blues and jazz influences.
The musical world of the 1960s was filled with bands who wanted to speak for the counterculture, but the Doors struck a chord. The Doors were signed to Elektra Records in 1966 and released their first album the following year. Playing a Vox Continental organ, Manzarek gave many Doors songs a unique sound, as demonstrated in their No. 1 hit "Light My Fire." The band's other hit songs included "Break on Through (To the Other Side)," "Riders on the Storm" and "Hello, I Love You."
The Doors had recorded six successful albums before Morrison died in Paris, France, in 1971. After Morrison's death, Manzarek took over as vocalist. The group put out two more albums, but, as Manzarek explained, "[It] wasn't the Doors without Morrison." The remaining members split up in 1973.
Life After the Doors
After the Doors broke up, Manzarek stayed in the music business. In addition to putting out solo albums, he formed the band Nite City. Manzarek also worked with composer Philip Glass on a rock adaptation of "Carmina Burana," produced albums for the punk band X, and recorded with Weird Al Yankovic.
In 2002, Manzarek began touring with Doors guitarist Krieger, leading to a legal battle with Densmore about their rights to use the band's name (the final name the two performed under was Manzarek-Krieger). However, the dispute with Densmore didn't keep the three remaining Doors members from recording together later, as they worked on "Breakin' a Sweat" with electronic musician Skrillex.
In addition to music, Manzarek penned an autobiography, Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, in 1998. He also wrote two novels that were published in the 2000s.
Death and Legacy
On May 20, 2013, after fighting bile duct cancer for years, Manzarek died at the age of 74 in a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany.
Though his life was filled with a multitude of other accomplishments, Manzarek is best known as a member of one of the most successful bands the world has ever seen. The Doors have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, been immortalized in an Oliver Stone film and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being a part of a success like the Doors is something few musicians get the chance to experience, and Manzarek was proud of that legacy.
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