Ray Manzarek, co-founder and keyboardist for The Doors, died last week in Germany after a battle with cancer. He was 74.
See also: Henry Rollins Remembers Ray Manzarek
Manzarek's melodies were the musical backbone for many of the Doors' most classic tunes, and he was well-regarded as a producer as well.
But there were many sides to the man, and below, historians, players and Doors fans reflect on him.
Matt Sorum, Velvet Revolver, Guns n' Roses, The Cult
“I feel so blessed and honored to have known Ray and had the chance to play with him. The musical vibe was magical. The pure essence of loosing yourself in the music. He [once] said to other musicians on-stage during rehearsal, 'Hey man, there's no rush. It's only time, and you'll feel it when the time is right.'
It was an inspiring moment in my musical career. See you at the righteous jam in the sky some day Ray. Jim is going to be so happy to see you.”
Rodney Bingenheimer, KROQ
“Ray was the opening of the door to allow punk rock to be heard and exposed to mainstream media. Ray put up his own money to produce the first four X albums and always supported punk rock music and new wave bands. Ray was one of the very few things I even liked in the movie made about me. Ray was a humorous story-teller and reminded me of a KMET-FM DJ by the sound of his voice. I will always remember Ray. How ironic that he died in Germany and that Jim Morrison died in Paris. We will all miss him.”
“He's a magical person, a driving force in American culture. People did not understand my singing, the guitar sound. But he just corralled us a little bit.”
“Ray was the most unique keyboard player in rock n' roll. His style of playing literally created the Doors' unmistakable sound. Ray gave The Doors that mysterious, jazzy, sexy sound. He was as poetic in his playing as Jim Morrison was in his lyrics. There will never be another Ray Manzarek.”
Kat Corbett, KROQ
“When I was young, I found Strange Days in my uncle's stash and basically stole the record. I listened to 'Moonlight Drive' over and over and over. I was way too young to get the war and sex references, but somehow it all made sense to me and I was hooked. A few years later I discovered Echo & The Bunnymen and loved that Manzarek played on their cover of “People Are Strange” for the Lost Boys soundtrack, as well as doing keys on “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo.” If I had to pick a favorite Doors track I'd go with 'Peace Frog.'”
Harvey Kubernik, music historian.
“Ray was someone I first saw on stage in 1968 in Inglewood and met in 1974 at Mercury Records on Hollywood Boulevard. He was a dear friend, an early supporter of my recording and literary work, and a passionate collaborator in the rock 'n' roll mission. He will remain someone I can still lean on. Johnny Rivers put the Whisky a Go Go on the map and then the Doors took the venue and the music displayed in that womb room further into the newspapers and subsequent media coverage. Raymond Daniel Manzarek, as hydra-headed instrumentalist, directed the group's triangle offense on stage and their collective sound consequently steered more music, additional regional information, as well as a plethora of albums from the Sunset Strip neighborhood which informed our world. Then and now. “
Dr. James Cushing, music historian
“Ray Manzarek is the 'forgotten man' in the history of jazz-rock fusion. Months before Miles Davis began experimenting with electric keyboards, and years before The Tony Williams Lifetime, The Doors' organ-guitar-drums trio sound opened secret passageways between rock and jazz. The great traditions of Jimmy Smith, Richard Groove Holmes and Big John Patton may have been under the radar of rock 'n roll radio, but Ray Manzarek knew that music well.
I had no idea, as a 1967 teenager freshly arrived in LA, that I was listening to a variation on John Coltrane's “My Favorite Things” as I grooved on the far-out 'album version' of “Light My Fire,” nor did I connect “When The Music's Over” with its source in Herbie Hancock's “Watermelon Man.” But I could tell this group had at least two real poets in it — one of them sang, and the other played an organ. The singer-poet died in July 1971, while I was at UCLA's summer school. One Friday evening that sad month, I entered a Westwood movie theater for a midnight screening and there they were, seated on the lobby couch: Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore — three grieving men, no longer young, sharing a shattered elegance I could only begin to imagine.”
Matt King, owner of Jim Morrison's old house
“I first met Ray just a couple months after buying my house here. I was introduced by their manager, Danny Sugerman. It was at a Doors event at The Riot House, where he performed solo on his organ, and even sang. I was with my brother, and he was very cool to us. He was always the consummate gentleman. He was clearly a musical genius, and entirely devoted to keeping The Doors' legacy alive, and did an incredible job. I am saddened by his passing, and disappointed for the current and upcoming generations of fans who will never again be able to hear The Doors' music performed live. I was honored to have known him.”
Rob Hill, editor of Treats! Magazine
“It was Ray Manzarek's spooky, almost religious-like carnival organ, that set the Doors apart from other rock bands, including the Stones, the Who and the Beatles…It gave the band a circus-like swagger that, when mixed with their jazz, blues and poetry roots was as sublime as rock can get.”
Chris Epting, music writer
“I think one of Ray's lasting legacies, beyond the brilliant records he had with the Doors and others, was his ability to keep the band relevant all of these years, by being an amazing storyteller and recreating so much of their history with his gift of words. He celebrated his past in a deeply thoughtful and meaningful way, and made it possible for many of us that missed out on seeing Jim Morrison to “see” him in a different way.”
See also: Henry Rollins Remembers Ray Manzarek