Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who played in Austin in 2011, dies from cancer

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Doors original member Ray Manzarek plays at the Paramount earlier this year. - Herald file photo

Ray Manzarek, co-founder of The Doors, plays at the Paramount Theatre in Austin on April 23, 2011. Click here for coverage of Manzarek’s 2011 Austin performance. – Herald file photo

Ray Manzarek, a founding member of the 1960s rock group The Doors whose versatile and often haunting keyboards complemented Jim Morrison’s gloomy baritone and helped set the mood for some of rock’s most enduring songs, has died. He was 74.

Manzarek died Monday in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family, said publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald. She said the musician’s manager, Tom Vitorino, confirmed Manzarek 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. For Doors admirers, the band symbolized the darker side of the Los Angeles lifestyle, what happened to the city after the sun went down and the Beach Boys fans headed home.

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The Doors’ vibe “has more to do with Charles Bukowski than it does with Farrah Fawcett,” said John Doe of punk band X, a friend of Manzarek’s for more than 30 years, referring to the poet and ‘Charlie’s Angels’ star, respectively. “It has more to do with Raymond Chandler and Nathaniel West, and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ the movie, than it does with ‘Beach Blanket Bingo,’ right? … It’s a real dark place out in LA.”

Next to Morrison, Manzarek was the most distinctive-looking band member, his glasses and wavy blond hair making him resemble a young English professor more than a rock star, a contrast to Morrison’s Dionysian glamour — his sensuous mouth and long, dark hair. Musically, Manzarek’s spidery organ on “Light My Fire” is one of the most instantly recognizable sounds in rock history.

Manzarek performed at Austin’s Paramount Theatre on April 23, 2011, with renowned slide guitarist Roy Rogers. Rogers and Manzarek’s interview with the Austin Daily herald can be found here.

Ray Manzarek answers a question from the audience during his show with Roy Rogers Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre. - Eric Johnson/

Ray Manzarek answers a question from the audience during his show with Roy Rogers in 2011 at the Paramount Theatre. – Eric Johnson/