Doors Keyboard Star Ray Manzarek Dies of Cancer at Age 74

Ray Manzarek, a founding member of the Doors, has died of cancer. He was 74.

Manzarek, whose keyboards led hit singles such as “Light My Fire,” died yesterday in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family, his publicist Heidi Ellen Robinson Fitzgerald said. Manzarek had been suffering from bile duct cancer.

Manzarek met Jim Morrison by chance on Venice Beach, California, in 1965. The singer had chosen the future band’s name in a reference to William Blake's line about “the doors of perception,” a quotation also lifted by Aldous Huxley.

They joined forces with guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Manzarek used his keyboards to provide bass lines, because for most of its short career the group did not have a dedicated bass guitarist.

The Doors sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. Morrison’s poetic lyrics and baritone voice joined with Manzarek’s keyboard lines, starting with the trademark solos on “Break on Through” and “Hello, I Love You.”

The final Doors album with Morrison, “L.A. Woman,” switched to a blues-driven sound with the quartet adding a bass player for the first time. Manzarek was freed to create some of his most memorable work on “The Changeling” and “Riders on the Storm.”

After Morrison’s death at the age of 27 in 1971, the Doors made two LPs with Manzarek on vocals before the act broke up. Doors albums regularly appear on rock critics’ list of the best of all time.

Manzarek later went on to a solo career and produced albums of unreleased Doors material, including “An American Prayer” in 1978, a collage of Morrison’s poetry, new recordings and sound effects.

The band’s official website put a large picture of the star with his dates on its front page in tribute.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Richard Vines on food, Robert Heller on rock music, Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater and Catherine Hickley on German art.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.