Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek

Manzarek in 2007
Background information
Birth name Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr.
Born (1939-02-12)February 12, 1939
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died May 20, 2013(2013-05-20) (aged 74)
Rosenheim, Germany
Genres Psychedelic rock, acid rock, blues rock, hard rock, blues, jazz fusion, funk, rock and roll, electronic music, punk rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, filmmaker
Instruments Keyboards, Vocals
Years active 1961–2013
Labels Elektra
Associated acts The Doors, Manzarek–Krieger, Rick & the Ravens, Nite City, The Manzarek–Rogers Band, Skrillex, X
Website TheDoors.com
The Official Site of Ray Manzarek
Notable instruments
Vox Continental
Gibson G-101
Keyboard bass
RMI Electra Piano

Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr. (February 12, 1939 – May 20, 2013), better known as Ray Manzarek, was an American musician, singer, producer, film director, and author, best known as a founding member and keyboardist of The Doors from 1965 to 1973. Manzarek was notable for performing on a keyboard bass during many live shows and some recordings, taking on a role usually filled by a bass guitar player. He was a co-founding member of Nite City from 1977 to 1978, and of Manzarek–Krieger from 2001 until his death in 2013.


Early life and career

Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr. was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. He was born to Polish immigrants Helena and Raymond Manczarek, Sr.[1][2] Growing up, he took private piano lessons from Bruno Michelotti and others. He originally wanted to play basketball, but he wanted to play only power forward or center. When he was sixteen his coach insisted either he play guard or not at all and he quit the team. Manzarek said later if it was not for that ultimatum, he might never have been with The Doors. He went to Everett Elementary School on South Bell Street and attended St. Rita of Cascia High School.[3] In 1956, he matriculated at DePaul University, where he played piano in his fraternity's jazz band (the Beta Pi Mu Combo), participated in intramural football, served as treasurer of the Speech Club, and organized a charity concert with Sonny Rollins and Dave Brubeck. He graduated from the University's College of Commerce with a degree in economics in 1960.[4]

In the fall of 1961, Manzarek briefly enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. Unable to acclimate to the curriculum, he transferred to the Department of Motion Pictures, Television and Radio as a graduate student before dropping out altogether after breaking up with a girlfriend.[5] Although he attempted to enlist in the Army Signal Corps as a camera operator on a drunken lark during a visit to New York City, he was instead assigned to the highly selective Army Security Agency as a prospective intelligence analyst in Okinawa and then Laos. While in the Army, Manzarek played in various musical ensembles and first smoked and grew cannabis. However, because he wanted to eventually visit Poland, he refused to sign the requisite security clearance and was discharged as a private first class after several months of undesignated duty. According to Britt Leach, a fellow Army Security Agency enlistee, Manzarek "had collected an entire duffel bag" of cannabis specimens during his service in Laos; this may have been used to fund his subsequent graduate education.[6]

In 1962, he re-enrolled in UCLA's graduate film program, where he received a M.F.A. in cinematography in 1965.[7][8] During this period, he met future wife Dorothy Fujikawa and undergraduate film student Jim Morrison. At the time, Manzarek was in a band called Rick & the Ravens with his brothers Rick and Jim.[9] Forty days after finishing film school, thinking they had gone their separate ways, Manzarek and Morrison met by chance on Venice Beach in California. Morrison said he had written some songs, and Manzarek expressed an interest in hearing them, whereupon Morrison sang rough versions of "Moonlight Drive," "My Eyes Have Seen You" and "Summer's Almost Gone." Manzarek liked the songs and co-founded the Doors with Morrison at that moment.

Manzarek met guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore at a Transcendental Meditation lecture. Densmore said, "There wouldn't be any Doors without Maharishi."[10]

From left to right, Densmore, Krieger, Manzarek and Morrison in a publicity photo from 1966

In January 1966, the Doors became the house band at the London Fog on the Sunset Strip. According to Manzarek, "Nobody ever came in the place...an occasional sailor or two on leave, a few drunks. All in all it was a very depressing experience, but it gave us time to really get the music together." The same day the Doors were fired from the London Fog, they were hired to be the house band of the Whisky a Go Go.[11]

The Doors' first recording contract was with Columbia Records. After a few months of inactivity, they learned they were on Columbia's drop list. At that point, they asked to be released from their contract. After a few months of live gigs, Jac Holzman "rediscovered" the Doors and signed them to Elektra Records.

The Doors lacked a bass guitarist (except during recording sessions), so at live performances Manzarek played the bass parts on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass. His signature sound was that of the Vox Continental combo organ, an instrument used by many other psychedelic rock bands of the era. He later used a Gibson G-101 Kalamazoo combo organ (which looks like a Farfisa) because the Continental's plastic keys frequently broke.

Manzarek occasionally sang for the Doors, including the live recording "Close To You" and on the B-side of "Love Her Madly," "You Need Meat (Don't Go No Further)." He also sang on the last two Doors albums, recorded after Morrison's death, Other Voices and Full Circle. Additionally, he provided one of several guitar parts on the song "Been Down So Long."

Later career and influence

Manzarek in March 2006, performing in the Netherlands

Manzarek played in several groups after the Doors, including Nite City.[11] He recorded a rock adaptation of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with Philip Glass, played with Iggy Pop, backed one track on the eponymous 1987 album Echo & the Bunnymen, backed San Francisco poet Michael McClure's poetry readings and did improvisational composition with poet Michael C. Ford.[12] He also worked extensively with "Hearts of Fire" screenwriter and former SRC front man Scott Richardson[13] on a series of spoken word and blues recordings entitled "Tornado Souvenirs". Manzarek produced the first four albums of the seminal punk band X,[14] also contributing occasionally on keyboards.[15]

His memoir, Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, was published in 1998. The Poet in Exile (2001) is a novel exploring the urban legend that Jim Morrison may have faked his death. Manzarek's second novel, Snake Moon, released in April 2006, is a Civil War ghost story.

In 2000, a collaboration poetry album entitled Freshly Dug was released with British singer, poet, actor and pioneer Punk rocker Darryl Read. Read had previously worked with Manzarek on the Beat Existentialist album in 1994, and their last poetical and musical collaboration was in 2007 with the album Bleeding Paradise.

Manzarek at the Bospop festival, Weert 2010, the Netherlands

Also in 2000, he co-wrote and directed the film Love Her Madly,[16] which was credited to a story idea by Jim Morrison.[17] The film was shown at the closing night of the 2004 Santa Cruz Film Festival,[18] but otherwise received limited distribution and critical review.

In 2006, he collaborated with composer and trumpeter Bal. The album that resulted, Atonal Head, is an exploration in the realm of electronica. The two musicians integrated jazz, rock, ethnic and classical music into their computer-based creations.

On August 4, 2007, Manzarek hosted a program on BBC Radio 2 about the 40th anniversary of the recording of "Light My Fire" and the group's musical and spiritual influences.

In April 2009, Manzarek and Robby Krieger appeared as special guests for Daryl Hall's monthly concert webcast Live From Daryl's House. They performed several Doors tunes ("People Are Strange", "The Crystal Ship", "Roadhouse Blues" and "Break on Through (To the Other Side)") with Hall providing lead vocals.

After living many years in Hollywood, Manzarek moved to Napa County, California, to a house that he remodeled extensively.[19] In his last years he played with local bands in the Napa area.[20]

In 2009, Manzarek collaborated with "Weird Al" Yankovic, by playing keyboards on the single "Craigslist", which is a pastiche of The Doors.[21] On the day of Manzarek's death, Yankovic published a personal video of this studio session which he said had been an "extreme honor" and "one of the absolute high points of my life".[22] Manzarek was a co-producer on a few tracks for Universal Recording artist Michael Barber. A track appeared on the Internet, titled "Be Ok", on Barber's Universal Records debut.

In May 2010, Manzarek recorded with slide guitarist Roy Rogers in Studio D in Sausalito, California. Their album, Translucent Blues, released in mid-2011, was ranked No. 3 on the Top 100 Roots Rock Albums of 2011 by The Roots Music Report.[23]

In February 2012, Manzarek recorded Breakn' a Sweat with DJ Skrillex and his fellow members Robby Krieger and John Densmore.

In August 2013, Twisted Tales was released and dedicated to Manzarek after his passing. The unlikely musical duo of Manzarek and Roy Rogers, Manzarek-Rogers Band, for eight years substantiated the concept “opposites attract" since the latter is perceived for slide guitar and delta blues. The lyrical content is primarily penned by songwriter/poets Jim Carroll and Michael McClure. [24]

Personal life and death

Manzarek married Dorothy Aiko Fujikawa in Los Angeles on December 21, 1967, with Jim Morrison and his longtime companion, Pamela Courson, as witnesses. Manzarek and Fujikawa remained married until his death. They had a son, Pablo, and three grandchildren.[14]

Around early 2013, Manzarek was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) and traveled to Germany for special treatment. On May 20, 2013, Manzarek died at a hospital in Rosenheim, Germany, at the age of 74.[25][26] Robby Krieger said, "I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today. 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."[26] John Densmore said, "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."[27]

Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said in reaction to Manzarek's death that "The world of rock 'n' roll lost one of its greats with the passing of Ray Manzarek."[28] Harris also said that "he was instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the '60s. Such memorable tracks as 'Light My Fire', 'People are Strange' and 'Hello, I Love You' – to name but a few – owe much to Manzarek's innovative playing."[29] At 9:31 on May 21, The Whisky a Go Go and other clubs where the Doors played, dimmed their lights in his memory. An invitation-only memorial service (Ray's celebration of life) was held on June 9 in the Napa Opera House.


The Doors

Main article: The Doors discography


Nite City

With Michael McClure

With Darryl Read

With Bal

With Roy Rogers

Spoken word

With poet Michael C. Ford



  1. "Doors Legend Doors In". The Warsaw Voice. Warsawvoice.pl. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  2. "Ray Manzarek Bio - Ray Manzarek Career". Mtv.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  3. Manzarek, Ray. Light My Fire. New York: Berkley Boulevard Books, 1998. ISBN 0-425-17045-4
  4. http://www.depaulnewsline.com/archives/depauls-musical-history-ray-manzarek-and-doors
  5. https://books.google.com/books?id=GzLCCAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+doors+an+illustrated+history&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR-_-1x_nNAhWHix4KHX0xB6QQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=ray%20manzarek%20ucla&f=false
  6. http://hotmetalbridge.org/number-nineteen/in-the-army-with-ray/
  7. http://www.tft.ucla.edu/2013/05/co-founder-of-the-doors-ray-manzarek-has-passed-away/
  8. https://books.google.com/books?id=hX95AAAAQBAJ&pg=PT83&dq=ray+manzarek+mfa&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiEhPbNyfnNAhXI6x4KHe9XCFsQ6AEIODAC#v=onepage&q=ray%20manzarek%20mfa&f=false
  9. Fricke, David (June 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek of the Doors". Rolling Stone (1185): 26.
  10. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Obituary, Rolling Stone, March 6, 2008, p. 16
  11. 1 2 Goldstein, Patrick. "Nite City: The Dark Side of L.A.", Creem (September 1977). Retrieved May 15, 2008
  12. Ray Manzarek and Michael C. Ford at Hen House Studios, video
  13. "Hearts of Fire (1987)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  14. 1 2 "Ray Manzarek, the Doors' keyboardist, dies at 74". Los Angeles Times. May 20, 2013.
  15. "Los Angeles". Retrieved May 22, 2013.
  16. Love Her Madly; IMDB. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  17. Love Her Madly credits; IMDB. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  18. Sarah Phelan, 'Madly', Deeply; Metro Santa Cruz, May 19–26, 2004. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  19. Matteucci, Jeannie. "Rock 'n' Roll Retreat", San Francisco Chronicle (February 11, 2004). Retrieved October 19, 2008
  20. The buttercream Gang with guest Ray Manzarek on YouTube. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  21. Yankovic, Al. Alpocalypse at Allmusic, credits at AllMusic. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  22. Yankovic, Al (May 20, 2013). Ray Manzarek plays "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Craigslist" (A/V stream). YouTube. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  23. "The No. 1 Independent, International Music Charts in the World – Music News, Reviews, & More. Helping the Music Artist along with Radio Stations and Record Labels". Roots Music Report. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  24. "Slide guitarist Roy Rogers talks 'Twisted Tales' final album with Ray Manzarek". Axs.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  25. "Ray Manzarek, Founding Member of The Doors, Passes Away at 74". The Doors Property, LLC. May 20, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  26. 1 2 "Keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors dies at age 74". Reuters. May 13, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  27. "John Densmore on TwitLonger". TwitLonger. May 20, 2013.
  28. Lewis, Randy (May 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek dies at 74; the Doors' keyboardist". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  29. Cava, Marco della (May 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek's keyboards opened musical doors". USA Today. Retrieved February 3, 2015.

Further reading

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