Ray Manzarek, who as the keyboardist and a songwriter for the Doors helped shape one of the indelible bands of the psychedelic era, died Monday in Rosenheim, Germany. He was 74. The cause was bile duct cancer, according to his manager, Tom Vitorino.
Manzarek founded the Doors in 1965 with singer and lyricist Jim Morrison, whom he would describe decades later as “the personification of the Dionysian impulse each of us has inside.”
Manzarek played a crucial role in creating music that was hugely popular and widely imitated, selling tens of millions of albums. The Doors’ songs were generally credited to the entire group. Long after Morrison’s death in 1971, the Doors’ music remained synonymous with the darker, more primal impulses unleashed by psychedelia.
In his 1998 autobiography, “Light My Fire,” Manzarek wrote: “We knew what the people wanted: The same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.”
The quasi-Baroque introduction Manzarek brought to the Doors’ 1967 single “Light My Fire” — a song primarily written by Krieger — helped make it a million-seller. Along with classical music, Manzarek also drew on jazz, R&B, cabaret and ragtime.
Manzarek was born on February 12, 1939, in Chicago and grew up there on the South Side, taking classical piano lessons. In 1962-65, he attended film school at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he met Morrison, a fellow film student.
In a chance encounter after graduation, Morrison mentioned that he had some possible song lyrics; they included “Moonlight Drive,” prompting Manzarek to suggest that they start a band.