Raymond Daniel Manzarek (originally Manczarek) died on May 20, 2013 of bile duct cancer at age 74. Manzarek co-founded the rock band The Doors along with fellow UCLA film school friend Jim Morrison in the summer of 1965. Manzarek kept his battle with cancer a secret from fans and passed away at the RoMed Clinic, in Rosenheim, Germany, where he had relocated for treatment.
The members of The Doors lived long in the shadow of Jim Morrison, both in life and after his death in Paris in 1971 at age 27, and not always comfortably. Most of the world knows Jim Morrison and his legend, but it can reasonably be said that without Ray Manzarek and his belief in the talent of Jim Morrison the world may not have heard of Morrison or his poetry. Manzarek met Morrison at the UCLA film school in 1964 and they became friends with Morrison appearing in Manzarek’s student film “Induction.” Manzarek also produced “Evergreen” at UCLA. During his student years at UCLA Manzarek also appeared in the band Rick and the Ravens as Screaming Ray Daniels. The band played local gigs and landed a record contract that would be critical in the early years of The Doors.
Manzarek was considered by others at the film school as being the most likely to succeed as a director in films and indeed did garner an interview at one of the movie studios, but the interview didn’t lead anywhere because of Manzarek’s interest in a more artistic approach to films instead of the more standard Hollywood formulaic approach to film. Finding himself at loose ends and in search of a job, living with his girlfriend Dorothy Fujikawa (whom he later married) on Venice Beach, one afternoon while he was meditating on the beach in front of his house, he was approached by Jim Morrison who told Manzarek he had been writing songs. Manzarek asked to hear one and Morrison sang him “Moonlight Drive,” which Manzarek instantly found appealing. He also thought Morrison could sing because he’d sung the song in pitch, and Morrison already had the name of the group. The band was born that afternoon.
Morrison moved in with Manzarek and Fujikawa. During the day Manzarek and Morrison would go to the UCLA music practice studios and Manzarek would work up the melody of songs Morrison only had a vague feeling about and turned his poems into music. Through his meditation class, Manzarek then met John Densmore who had a friend, Robby Krieger; they would become The Doors’ drummer and guitar player.
If Jim Morrison was a Dionysian singer, Manzarek was his Apollonian opposite that would counterbalance Morrison’s excesses. As Morrison was famously arrested in New Haven, Connecticut in December of 1967 it was Manzarek who walked over and tried to intervene on Jim’s behalf.
After Morrison’s death, Manzarek and the remaining Doors released two more albums (“Other Voices” and “Full Circle“), then decided it couldn’t be The Doors without Jim Morrison. Manzarek went on to start the band Nite City that was to have Iggy Pop as the lead singer, but that didn’t work out due to Pop’s drug addictions. Manzarek also put out a critically acclaimed solo album “The Whole Thing Started with Rock ‘n’ Roll and Now it’s Out of Control,” but it didn’t receive much popular notice. In the ’80s Manzarek produced the seminal punk rock group X and played with poets and friends of Jim Morrison, including Michael C. Ford, Darryl Read, and Michael McClure.
More recently he alternated playing with former Doors guitarist Robby Krieger as the Manzarek-Krieger Band as well as with blues guitarist Roy Rogers. Manzarek also wrote of his time with Jim Morrison and The Doors in the book “Light My Fire” and delved into fiction with “The Poet in Exile” and “Snake Moon.” In 2000 Manzarek released the feature film “Love Her Madly,” which he said was suggested by Jim Morrison when they were film students.
Manzarek is survived by his wife Dorothy, son Pablo and his wife Sharmin, grandchildren Noah, Apollo and Camille, as well as brothers Rick and Jim Manczarek. The family has asked that if you would like to memorialize Ray please donate to Stand Up 2 Cancer.
Raymond Daniel Manzarek, 2/12/39 to 5/20/13, thank you for the great music and decades of entertainment.
Originally published May 20, 2013.