One of the founders of a rock band that played a big role in shaping popular music in the 1960s has died. The Washington Post reports that Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for the Doors, died today, Monday, May 20, 2013, at 74.
Manzarek reportedly died at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, of complications from bile duct cancer.
Besides his accomplishments as a member of the Los Angeles-based Doors, Manzarek, born and raised in Chicago, was a producer, writer and film director.
Manzarek studied economics in college but his heart was in music, and a fateful meeting with Jim Morrison on a California beach in 1965 led to the creation of the Doors.
“Led by the charismatic Morrison, with his mystical wildness and commanding physical presence, and driven by the power of Mr. Manzarek on the organ, the band worked its way into the soul of the 1960s counterculture,” The Post reports. “Much of what the Doors became known for was owed to Mr. Manzarek, with his penchant for blending musical streams and currents, old and new, from blues to classical, with spoken poetry and an overlay of the psychedelic.”
The group released a string of hits including “Light My Fire,” “L.A. Woman” and “Break On Through.” Besides Morrison and Manzarek, the band consisted of guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore.
The report notes: “Morrison’s death in 1971 broke the spell. Mr. Manzarek, a considerable talent in his own right, struck out for himself. He continued to make music, alone or in bands, through this year, and he exerted great influence on other keyboard artists.”
The band was known for not having a bass player, which was made possible by Manzarek playing bass parts on keyboard.
“He also mastered the combo organ,” the story notes. “He played guitar and percussion instruments as well as the keyboards, and he sometimes sang. He was heard in a half-dozen subgenres of rock, including acid rock, blues rock, hard rock and jazz rock. When the punk movement began to flourish in Los Angeles, Mr. Manzarek worked in production with the band known as X on the punk landmark album ‘Los Angeles.’”
Here’s a clip of Manzarek performing “Light My Fire” with fellow Doors alum Robby Krieger in Providence, R.I., in November 2011: