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Ray Manzarek

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Ray Manzarek
Manzarek in 1971
Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr.

(1939-02-12)February 12, 1939
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 20, 2013(2013-05-20) (aged 74)
Rosenheim, Germany
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Years active1959–2013
Dorothy Aiko Fujikawa
(m. 1967)
Musical career
  • Keyboards
  • vocals

Raymond Daniel Manzarek Jr. ( Manczarek; February 12, 1939 – May 20, 2013) was an American keyboardist. He is best known as a member of the rock band the Doors, co-founding the group in 1965 with fellow UCLA Film School student Jim Morrison. Manzarek is credited for his innovative playing and abilities on organ-style keyboard instruments.

Manzarek was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 as a Doors member. He was a co-founding member of Nite City from 1977 to 1978 and of Manzarek–Krieger from 2001 until he died in 2013. USA Today described him as "one of the best keyboardists ever".[3]


Early life[edit]

Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. He was born to parents of Polish descent,[4] Helena Kolenda[5] (1918–2012) and Raymond Manczarek Sr. (1914–1986).[6][7] His grandparents emigrated from Poland in the 1890s.[8]

Upon graduating from St. Rita of Cascia High School in 1956,[9] Manzarek 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.[10] He graduated from the University's College of Commerce with a degree in economics in 1960.[10]

In late 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 after breaking up with a girlfriend.[11] Although he attempted to enlist in the Army Signal Corps as a camera operator, he was instead assigned to the highly selective Army Security Agency as a prospective intelligence analyst.[12]

The Doors[edit]

Manzarek re-enrolled in UCLA's graduate film program in 1962, receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in cinematography in 1965.[13][14] 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.[15] 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".[16] During this time, Manzarek also met teenage guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore at a Transcendental Meditation lecture and recruited them for the incipient band. Densmore said, "There wouldn't be any Doors without Maharishi."[17]

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.[18] 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".[18] When the Doors were fired from the London Fog, they were hired to be the house band at the Whisky a Go Go.[18] The Doors' first recording contract was with Columbia Records. After a few months of inactivity, they learned they were on Columbia's drop list.[19][20] At that point, they asked to be released from their contract. Following a few months of live gigs, Jac Holzman "rediscovered" the Doors and signed them to Elektra Records.[21]

Manzarek performing live on Danish television, using his signature technique: a Rhodes Piano Bass with his left hand, while performing the main melodies with his right on an organ.[22]

The Doors lacked a bass guitarist (except during recording sessions), so for live performances, Manzarek played the bass parts on a Fender Rhodes piano keyboard bass. His signature sound was that of the Vox Continental combo organ, an instrument used by many other psychedelic rock bands of the era.[23] He also used a Gibson G-101 Kalamazoo combo organ (which looks like a Farfisa) for the band's later albums.[24]

During the Morrison era, Manzarek was the group's regular backing vocalist.[25] He occasionally sang lead, as exemplified by recordings of Muddy Waters's "Close to You" (released on 1970's Absolutely Live)[26] and "You Need Meat (Don't Go No Further)" (recorded during the L.A. Woman sessions and initially released as the B-side of "Love Her Madly").[27] He went on to share lead vocals with Krieger on the albums (Other Voices and Full Circle) released after Morrison's death.[28]

Later career and influence[edit]

Manzarek in March 2006, performing in the Netherlands

After recording two solo albums on Mercury Records to a muted reception in 1974, Manzarek played in several groups, most notably Nite City.[18] He recorded a rock adaptation of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (1983; co-produced by Philip Glass), briefly played with Iggy Pop, sat in on one track on the eponymous 1987 album Echo & the Bunnymen, backed San Francisco poet Michael McClure's poetry readings and worked on improvisational compositions with poet Michael C. Ford.[29] He also worked extensively with Hearts of Fire screenwriter and former SRC frontman Scott Richardson on a series of spoken word and blues recordings entitled "Tornado Souvenirs".[30] Manzarek produced the first four albums of the seminal punk band X,[31] also contributing occasionally on keyboards.[32] Two of those have been also included on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[33]

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.[34] Also in 2000, he co-wrote and directed the film Love Her Madly, which was credited to a story idea by Morrison.[34] The film was shown at the closing night of the 2004 Santa Cruz Film Festival,[35] but otherwise received limited distribution and critical review.

Manzarek at the Bospop festival, Weert 2010, the Netherlands

In 2006, he collaborated with composer and trumpeter Bal. The album that resulted, Atonal Head explores the realm of electronica. The two musicians integrated jazz, rock, ethnic, and classical music into their computer-based creations. [citation needed] 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.[36]

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.[37] In his last years, he often sat in with local bands in the Napa County area, where he relocated in the early 2000s.

In 2009, Manzarek collaborated with "Weird Al" Yankovic by playing keyboards on the single "Craigslist", which is a pastiche of the Doors.[38] 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".[39] In May 2010, Manzarek recorded with slide guitarist Roy Rogers. A collaborative album between the two, entitled Translucent Blues, was released in mid-2011; its lyrical content is primarily penned by songwriter/poets Jim Carroll and Michael McClure.[40] During June through August 2011, Manzarek recorded "Breakn' a Sweat" with DJ Skrillex and his fellow former Doors members Robby Krieger and John Densmore.[41] In August 2013, Twisted Tales, another Manzarek–Rogers collaboration, was released and dedicated to Manzarek after his passing.[42][43][44]

Personal life[edit]

Manzarek married fellow UCLA alumna Dorothy Aiko Fujikawa in Los Angeles on December 21, 1967, with Morrison and his longtime companion Pamela Courson being attendees at their wedding. Manzarek and Fujikawa remained married until his death. They have a son, Pablo, born on August 28, 1973, and they have three grandchildren.[31] In the early 1970s, the Manzareks divided their time between an apartment in West Hollywood, California, and a small penthouse on New York City's Upper West Side.[45] They subsequently resided in Beverly Hills, California (including ten years in a house on Rodeo Drive), for several decades.[45] For the last decade of his life, Manzarek and his wife lived in a refurbished farmhouse near Vichy Springs, California, in the Napa Valley.[46]


In March 2013, Manzarek was diagnosed with a rare cancer called cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) and traveled to Germany for special treatment. During that time, before his death, he reconciled with Densmore and spoke to Krieger.[47] He also performed a private concert for his doctors and nurses. According to his manager, Manzarek was "feeling better" until things took a turn for the worse. On May 20, 2013, Manzarek died at a hospital in Rosenheim, Germany, at the age of 74.[48][49] He was surrounded by his wife and brothers.[49] Krieger said upon hearing the news of his death, "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."[49] 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."[50]

Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said in reaction to Manzarek's death, "The world of rock 'n' roll lost one of its greats with the passing of Ray Manzarek."[31] Harris also said that "he was instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the 1960s. 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."[3]


On February 12, 2016, at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, Densmore and Krieger reunited for the first time in 15 years to perform in tribute to Manzarek and benefit Stand Up to Cancer.[51] That day would have been Manzarek's 77th birthday. The night featured Exene Cervenka and John Doe of the band X, Rami Jaffee of the Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots' Robert DeLeo, Jane's Addiction's Stephen Perkins, Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara, and Andrew Watt (among others).[52]

In April 2018, the film Break On Thru: A Celebration of Ray Manzarek and the Doors premiered at the 2018 Asbury Park Music & Film Festival. The film highlights the 2016 concert in honor of what would have been Manzarek's 79th birthday, including new footage and interviews. The film won the APMFF Best Film Feature Award at the festival.[53]


Details are taken from AllMusic.[34]

The Doors


Nite City

With X

With Piotr Bal

  • Atonal Head (2006)

With Echo & the Bunnymen

With Michael McClure

  • Love Lion (1993)
  • The Piano Poems: Live From San Francisco (2012)

With Darryl Read

  • Freshly Dug (1999)

With Roy Rogers

  • Ballads Before The Rain (2008)
  • Translucent Blues (2011)
  • Twisted Tales (2013)

Spoken word

  • The Doors: Myth And Reality, The Spoken Word History (1996)

With "Weird Al" Yankovic

With poet Michael C. Ford


  • Love Her Madly (2000). Director and co-writer.
  • Induction (1965). Actor (Ray), director, and writer.
  • The Wino and the Blind Man (1964). Actor (blind man).
  • Evergreen (1965). Writer and Director.
  • Deal of the Century (1983). Actor (Charlie Simbo).
  • The Poet in Exile (in production).


  • Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors (1999) ISBN 0-425-17045-4
  • The Poet in Exile (2001) Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002 paperback: ISBN 1-56025-447-5
  • Snake Moon (2006) ISBN 1-59780-041-4


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hornbostel, Brendan (May 24, 2013). "UCLA Alumnus and the Doors Keyboard Legend Dies at 74". Daily Bruin. Retrieved May 16, 2021.
  2. ^ Charone, Barbara (August 15, 1974). "Ray Manzarek Opens a New Door: Jazz". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Cava, Marco della (May 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek's Keyboards Opened Musical Doors". USA Today. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  4. ^ Manzarek 1999, p. 20.
  5. ^ Manzarek 1999, p. 21.
  6. ^ "Doors Legend Doors In". The Warsaw Voice. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  7. ^ Tortorici, Frank (February 11, 1999). "The Doors' Ray Manzarek". MTV.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  8. ^ Weidman 2011, p. 22.
  9. ^ "St. Rita Grad and Founder of The Doors, Ray Manzarek '56 Dies at 74". St. Rita of Cascia High School. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Connelly, Jane. "DePaul's Musical History: Ray Manzarek and the Doors | Newsline | DePaul University | A Publication for Faculty and Staff". Depaulnewsline.com. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  11. ^ Gaar 2015, p. 15.
  12. ^ "Legendary Rockers In The Military – 102.9 WMGK". Wmgk.com. Classic Rock 102,9 MGK. June 14, 2017.
  13. ^ "Co-Founder of the Doors Ray Manzarek Has Passed Away". Tft.ucla.edu. May 21, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  14. ^ Manzarek 1999, p. 83.
  15. ^ Fricke, David (June 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek of the Doors". Rolling Stone. No. 1185. p. 26.
  16. ^ Manzarek 1999, p. 97–98.
  17. ^ "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Obituary". Rolling Stone. March 6, 2008. p. 16.
  18. ^ a b c d Goldstein, Patrif L.A. (September 1977). "Nite City — The Dark Side Of L.A." Creemmagazine.com. Archived from the original on July 9, 2008. Retrieved May 15, 2008.
  19. ^ Fong-Torres 2006, p. 53.
  20. ^ Manzarek 1999, p. 189.
  21. ^ Fong-Torres 2006, p. 58.
  22. ^ Shepherd 2003, p. 301.
  23. ^ Greene, Andy (May 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek Dead; Doors Keyboardist Was 74". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  24. ^ Gerstenmeyer 2001, pp. 97, 165.
  25. ^ Plaut, Eric. "Ray Manzarek". Consciousness Magazine. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  26. ^ Absolutely Live (Liner notes). The Doors. Elektra Records. 1970. LP labels. EKS-9002.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  27. ^ Blake, Mark (May 20, 2014). "Archive: Ray Manzarek RIP". Classic Rock. Louder Sound. Retrieved December 15, 2021.
  28. ^ Allen, Jim (October 18, 2016). "When the Doors Continued Without Jim Morrison on Other Voices". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  29. ^ Ray Manzarek and Michael C. Ford at Hen House Studios. Dailymotion.com. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  30. ^ "Ray Manzarek Biography". Raymanzarek.com. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  31. ^ a b c Lewis, Randy (May 20, 2013). "Ray Manzarek Dies at 74; the Doors' Keyboardist". LATimes.com. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  32. ^ "X: Los Angeles – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  33. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2021.
  34. ^ a b c Torreano, Bradley. "Ray Manzarek – Biography, Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  35. ^ Phelan, Sarah. "Truly, 'Madly', Deeply". Metro Santa Cruz. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  36. ^ "Radio 2 – 60s Season – BBC". BBC Radio 2. August 4, 2007.
  37. ^ "Live From Daryl's House". Raymanzarek.com. April 15, 2009. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  38. ^ "Weird Al Yankovic: Alpocalypse – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  39. ^ Ray Manzarek Plays "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Craigslist". YouTube. May 20, 2013. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  40. ^ Horowitz, Hal. "Translucent Blues – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  41. ^ O'Brien, Jon. " Bangarang – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  42. ^ Here, Classic Rock; Now. "Slide Guitarist Roy Rogers talks 'Twisted Tales' Final Album with Ray Manzarek". Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  43. ^ BraveWords. "RAY MANZAREK & ROY ROGERS - Twisted Tales CD Now Available; Audio Samples Streaming". bravewords.com. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  44. ^ Ray Manzarek & Roy Rogers - Twisted Tales, retrieved August 28, 2022
  45. ^ a b Weiss, Jeff (May 23, 2013). "When the Music's Over: One Last Trip with Ray Manzarek". Passionweiss.com. Archived from the original on June 25, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  46. ^ Matteucci, Jeannie (February 11, 2004). "Rock 'n' Roll Retreat / The Doors' Ray Manzarek and His Wife Savor Life in Wine Country". Sfgate.com. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  47. ^ Appleford, Steve (June 19, 2013). "John Densmore on Reconciling with the Doors". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  48. ^ "Ray Manzarek, Founding Member of the Doors, Passes Away at 74". Thedoors.com. May 20, 2013. Archived from the original on August 7, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  49. ^ a b c "Keyboardist Ray Manzarek of the Doors Dies at Age 74". Reuters. May 13, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  50. ^ "John Densmore on TwitLonger". TwitLonger. May 20, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  51. ^ Lewis, Randy (February 1, 2016). "Doors surviving members to reunite for Ray Manzarek benefit tribute". Los Angeles Times.
  52. ^ "Surviving Doors, Alt-Rock Royalty Celebrate Ray Manzarek – Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. February 13, 2016.
  53. ^ "Asbury Park Music Film Festival Winners". Thedoors.com. May 1, 2018. Archived from the original on September 6, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  54. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 8, 1991). "The Doors". Entertainment Weekly.


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