He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and was introduced to the piano at the tender age of seven. Though he would later be electrified by the sensual strut of boogie-woogie, the raw power of the blues and the transgressive energy of rock ‘n’ roll, Manzarek credits the “little red book”, written by John Thompson, that his first piano teacher gave him with ideas and motifs he would draw on throughout his career.
While at St. Rita high-school he began playing in a band with his brothers, Rick and Jim, earning pocket money at dances and talent shows. He continued this sideline as an economics student at DePaul University; upon graduating he moved west to attend law school at UCLA. Quickly realizing the law wasn’t for him, Manzarek transferred to the UCLA film school. It was there he met his future wife, Dorothy Fujikawa.
Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore released two albums as a trio under the Doors moniker, with Manzarek and Krieger handling vocals. Manzarek released the solo albums “The Golden Scarab” (1973) and “The Whole Thing Started With Rock and Roll & Now It’s Out Of Control” (1974) before forming the group Nite City, which invited comparisons to Mott the Hoople and Aerosmith; the quintet released its self-titled debut in 1977 and the follow-up “Golden Days Diamond Nights” the following year.
The keyboardist’s memoir “Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors” was published in 1998; he subsequently published two novels, 2001’s “The Poet in Exile” (riffing on the urban legend that Morrison faked his own death) and the ghostly 2006 Civil War tale “Snake Moon.” He also flexed his cinematic chops as the writer-director (and score composer) of the 2000 thriller “Love Her Madly.”
In 2002, Ray rejoined forces with Robby Krieger and they toured together for over ten years, playing classic Doors material to sold-out crowds composed of longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Ray Manzarek passed away in Germany on May 20, 2013 after a brief battle with cancer.
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