Ray Manzarek, the legendary keyboardist of the Doors, has died of cancer, according to a post on the band’s Twitter account. He was 74 years old.
Manzarek grew up in Chicago and deliberated pursuing a career as a basketball player while taking piano lessons in his early years. However, his life changed when, while attending UCLA’s film school, he befriended a fellow student named Jim Morrison. They expected to go their separate ways after graduating, but a chance encounter at Venice Beach changed both of their lives when Manzarek agreed to start a band with Morrison. After meeting Robby Krieger and John Densmore at a transcendental meditation lecture in Los Angeles, the four men became The Doors.
From 1965 to 1971, The Doors were one of the most popular rock groups in America. While the controversial behavior of Jim Morrison often took center stage, Manzarek’s keyboards were crucial to developing the band’s sound. By controlling both the melody and rhythm of the band’s songs (Manzarek’s keyboards removed any need for a bassist), Manzarek made The Doors stand out among a booming psychedelic rock scene in California.
Following Morrison’s death in 1971, Manzarek performed as a solo artist and as the founder of the band Nite City. In the 1980s, Manzarek worked with bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen and X. He and Krieger often toured as Krieger-Manzarek, and they both took part in the various Doors reunions that happened throughout the years.
In the band’s official statement on Manzarek’s death, Krieger said that he was “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.”