In all the madness of the devastating tornadoes that tore through central Oklahoma earlier this week, I never got the chance to pay proper tribute to Ray Manzarek, one of my favorite members of one of my all-time favorite bands.
Manzarek, a founding member of the 1960s rock group The Doors whose complex and indelible keyboards complemented Jim Morrison’s moody baritone, died Monday in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family. He was 74.
According to the Associated Press, he died after being stricken with bile duct cancer.
The Doors’ original lineup, which also included drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robbie Krieger, was only together for a few years and they only made six studio albums. But the band has retained a large and obsessive following decades after Morrison’s 1971 death. The Doors have sold more than 100 million records and songs such as “Light My Fire” and “Riders On the Storm” are still “classic” rock favorites.
“There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words,” Densmore said in a statement. “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.”
The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Their records have been reissued frequently and the band was the subject of a 1991 Oliver Stone movie, “The Doors,” starring Val Kilmer as Morrison and Kyle MacLachlan as Manzarek, who complained that the film stereotyped Morrison as a hopeless drunk and also omitted calmer, more humorous times, according to the AP obituary.
The Doors’ fame has hardly faded even though they’re one of the few groups not to allow their music to be used for commercials, a source of great tension among surviving members. Manzarek and Krieger reportedly supported licensing the songs, and Densmore has resisted. The group also feuded when Krieger and Manzarek formed a new group, Doors of the 21st Century. Densmore objected, and Krieger and Manzarek performed under various names.
Other Doors albums included “The Soft Parade,” ”Waiting for the Sun” and their last record with Morrison, “L.A. Woman.”
A Chicago native, Manzarek briefly tried to hold the band together on the albums “Other Voices” and “Full Circle,” neither of which had critical or commercial success. He played in other bands over the years, working with X and Iggy Pop among others. He also wrote a memoir, “Light My Fire,” and a novel, “The Poet In Exile,” in which he imagines receiving messages from a Morrison-like artist who had supposedly died.
He produced four albums for X, including another landmark album “Los Angeles,” and played off and on with the band for three decades.
Before we leave this week behind here a few samplings of my favorite Doors songs featuring Manzarek’s incredible keyboards: