Guest Author - Michele Misurelli-Gillis
The music world is mourning yet another loss; musical icon Ray Manzarek, musician, song writer, author, producer director, and known most notably as the founder of The Doors. Manzarek died May 2013, after a long battle with cancer. He will be remembered for making the Doors a household name.
Early life and The Doors
Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. born on February 12, 1939, was of Polish descent, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Throughout his childhood, he was trained as a classical organist and pianist but his dream was to play basketball. But that dream faded fast when his basketball coach insisted Ray play a position he had no desire to play or not play at all, Manzarek quit the team. He was quoted as saying; “If it was not for that ultimatum, I might never have been with the Doors”. After he graduated from DePaul University with a degree in economics, he headed out west for a graduate degree in UCLA’s film school. Little did he know of the strange days ahead. It would be there, he would meet the two most influential people in his life. His fellow classmate, Jim Morrison, read him some lyrics on Venice Beach, and the rest is rock and roll history. In an art class, another classmate caught Manzarek’s attention, Dorothy Aiko Fujikawa, the future Mrs. Ray Manzarek. The couple married on December 21st, 1967, with Morrison as his Best Man. The Manzarek’s had one son, Pablo, who followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a musician. The Manzarek’s are also grandparents and had just celebrated 45 years of marriage.
Manzarek’s style of music, which was heavily influenced by blues and jazz, are evident in Doors hits like "L.A. Woman " and "Riders on the Storm”. Manzarek’s contribution to The Doors distinctive and dark, haunting sound was to incorporate the works of John Coltrane and other jazz artists into his organ solos. The Coltrane influence is evident in "Light My Fire". This incomparable resonance, along with his beatnik eyeglasses, became Manzarek’s trademark. The Doors went on to sell more than 100 million albums worldwide, and were the first American band to accumulate eight consecutive gold LPs. But the band’s success was abruptly interrupted with Jim Morrison untimely death in 1970. Shortly after the loss of the Doors’ front man, the remaining members of the Doors disbanded.
Beyond The Doors; The Post Years
In 1991, Manzarek, was immortalized in the Oliver Stone film “The Doors”. Actor Kyle MacLachlan portrayed Manzarek. His involvement was solicited, but Manzarek turned down Stone's many requests to help in the movie. After the movie’s release, Manzarek came out of semi-retirement to voice his displeasure in how the band was portrayed by the controversial filmmaker. He was quoted as saying; “Oliver Stone did real damage to the guy I knew: Jim Morrison, the poet. The movie is a pack of lies". Along with the remaining members of the Doors, Krieger joins Manzarek and Densmore in describing the movie as inaccurate, but also says, referring to the film's inaccuracy; "It could have been a lot worse”.
• In 1993, The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2007 were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
• Manzarek also dabbled as a writer; his memoir of the Doors Light My Fire - My Life with The Doors, was published in 1998, along with a novel, The Poet in Exile (2001), a fictional account based on the hoax that Morrison faked his death . His second novel, Snake Moon, a Civil War ghost story, was released in 2006.
• In 2000, he wrote and directed his first and only film Love Her Madly.
• A longtime L.A. resident and impresario, Manzarek had been living in Napa Valley for the last 10 or so years, and frequently played with a number of local bands in the area. Over the years, he collaborated with artists like Echo and the Bunnymen, Iggy Pop and Michael McClure, and up until his death, Manzarek was also playing with former band mate Robbie Krieger, performing music of The Doors.
No One Here Gets Out Alive - This is the End, Beautiful Friend
On May 20, 2013, after fighting bile duct cancer for years, Manzarek died at the age of 74 in a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. He had been undergoing therapy in Germany, but his condition took a turn for the worse. Immediately following the reports of Manzarek’s death, rumors began to circulate the web claiming the news of his death was a hoax. Déjà vu for the Doors as 43 years earlier when Jim Morrison’s death was announced, fans also claimed the news was a hoax, claiming that Morrison was actually alive, but faked his own death to go into retirement and seclusion. Manzarek is survived by his wife Dorothy, and brothers Rick and James Manczarek, who were all present at his death. He is also survived by his son Pablo Manzarek, Pablo’s wife Sharmin, and Manzarek’s three grandchildren: Noah, Apollo and Camille.