RIP: Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist and founding member of The Doors, passed away yesterday afternoon from bile duct cancer. He was 74.

The quasi-Baroque introduction Mr. Manzarek brought to the Doors’ 1967 single “Light My Fire“ — a song primarily written by Mr. Krieger — helped make it a million-seller. Along with classical music, Mr. Manzarek also drew on jazz, R&B, cabaret and ragtime. His main instrument was the Vox Continental electric organ, which he claimed to have chosen, Mr. Vitorino said, because it was “easy to carry.”

The Doors’ four-man lineup did not include a bass player; onstage, Mr. Manzarek supplied the bass lines with his left hand, using a Fender Rhodes piano bass, though the band’s studio recordings often added a bassist.

Mr. Densmore said, via e-mail: “There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.”

After Mr. Morrison’s death, Mr. Manzarek strove to keep the Doors together, led his own bands and continued to influence the Los Angeles underground. He produced “Los Angeles,” the 1980 debut album by the leading Southern California punk band X. But he also kept returning to the music of the Doors, rejoining Mr. Krieger in 2002 in a band whose name became the subject of a long legal battle with Mr. Densmore over use of the Doors’ name. Manzarek-Krieger, as the band was finally named, had more dates booked this year, Mr. Vitorino said.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today,“ Mr. Krieger said in a statement. “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.“

Above is one of best examples of Manzarek’s talent in both signing and piano playing. The Doors were one of the first bands I fell for hard and most of that can be attributed to the playing of Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore. While Morrison could often be ponderous and insufferable, those three had serious musical chops and complimented one another’s unique styles really well.

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