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.
Mr. Manzarek died on Monday in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family, said publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald. She said the musician’s manager, Tom Vitorino, confirmed Mr. 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 death in 1971. The Doors have sold more than 100 million records and songs such as “Light my fire” and “Riders of the storm” are still “classic” rock favourites. For Doors admirers, the band symbolised 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.
Next to Morrison, Mr. 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, Mr. Manzarek’s spidery organ on “Light my fire” is one of the most instantly recognisable sounds in rock history.
But he seemed up to finding the right touch for a wide range of songs — the sleepy, lounge-style keyboards on “Riders of the storm”; the liquid strains for “The crystal ship” and the barrelhouse romps on “Roadhouse blues”. The Doors always considered themselves “more” than a rock band and Mr. Manzarek, Mr. Densmore and Mr. Krieger often managed a flowing rapport that blended rock, blues and jazz behind Morrison’s self-consciously poetic lyrics.
“There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words,” Mr. Densmore said in a statement.