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The Doors' Keyboard Counterpoint Goes Silent: Remembering Ray Manzarek

NPR icon by Mandalit del Barco
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Ray Manzarek, the founding keyboardist of the Los Angeles rock band The Doors, died in a clinic in Germany on Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer, according to his publicist. He was 74.

One of the biggest selling bands of all time — and one of the most controversial — The Doors came together in 1965, after Manzarek moved to Los Angeles and recruited Jim Morrison to sing with his college band. Manzarek grew up on Chicago's south side and resisted piano lessons when he was young, until he heard Chicago blues and jazz on the radio. His keyboard playing on such Doors classics as "Light My Fire," "Riders on the Storm," "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" and more provided a blues and jazz counterpoint to Morrison's poetic swagger.

After Morrison died in 1971, The Doors recorded two albums with Manzarek singing some of the lead vocals, but the band eventually broke up. Manzarek recorded several solo albums; collaborated with poets and produced for other bands, including X, another trailblazing Los Angeles group. In 1998, Putnam published Manzarek's autobiography to critical acclaim, though Light My Fire: My Life With The Doors was more about Morrison than Manzarek. He also wrote two novels. In 2002, Manzarek reunited with The Doors' guitarist Robby Krieger to play the band's songs live.

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