Freddie Matthews writes from London: Ray Manzarek died of complications related to bile duct cancer on 20 May 2013. It was a very sad day for music. He was 74 years old.
We’ve lost one of the true greats.
Manzarek was best known as a founding member and keyboardist of the band The Doors. Both he and Jim Morrison started the psychedelic band after a chance meeting on Venice Beach in California. Morrison had written plenty of lyrics, while Manzarek not only played the keyboard, but, as the band lacked a bassist, he also laid down the bass part on his Fender Rhodes piano instead. It was to become a technique that would make The Doors stand out from every other band making music at that time and one that was a crucial element of their success.
Manzarek’s keyboards were often haunting and set the mood against the dark and mysterious backdrop of the Jim Morrison vocal. It’s been some time since the original line-up of The Doors were together but that didn’t stop Manzarek still playing until just a couple of years ago.
His death, surrounded by his family in Rosenheim, Germany, was no surprise as Manzarek’s battle with bile duct cancer had been long and hard.
The original The Doors line-up of Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robbie Krieger weren’t even together that long, especially after Morrison’s death at the age of just 27, in Paris, on 3 July 1971. But the band retained a cult for decades to come and to this day also. With only nine studio albums, The Doors must have been one of the most compiled bands ever. Their bestselling album, with almost 5.5 million sales, was their debut album The Doors. Yet total sales stand at just over 40 million albums and another 60 million singles worldwide. I don’t think that the album sales do the band justice. By rights it should be at least treble that number but it’s partly owing to their lack of material recorded together. Although it goes without saying that the figure will surely rise in the coming months.
If you want to remember Manzarek at his finest then listen to The Doors’ seminal track ‘Light My Fire’. The keys part is instantly recognisable. It’s sheer brilliance. As is ‘Riders On The Storm’. Manzarek had a style of playing that meandered its way into your subconscious and felt every bit as crucial to the song as Jim Morrison’s vocals. His ability was pure genius and he was a true music legend in every sense of the word.
His wife Dorothy, whom he married in December 1967, his son Pablo and two brothers, Rick and James, survive him.
It goes without saying that he’ll be as iconic in death as he was in life.
Goodbye once again to another rider on the storm.