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Dead At 74, Doors Founder Ray Manzarek Celebrated Dionysian Legacy

Organist Ray Manzarek, a founding member of The Doors, died yesterday after a battle with cancer.

If Jim Morrison got the life-after-death rock sainthood that attaches itself to the genre’s fallen frontmen, Ray Manzarek became the torchbearer for the sometimes loved, sometimes despised, always compelling group that was both a pop success and a beguiling circus.

Manzarek, who founded the group with fellow UCLA student Morrison after a chance meeting on the beach, was both the dreamer of the group and sometimes its only adult. Forgoing a more traditional rock lineup, The Doors relied on Manzarek’s jazz-influenced work on the keys to anchor the group, alongside guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore.  

Manzarek, originally from Chicago, visited The Roundtable in 2010, before one of the post-Doors Doors iterations visited Albany.

The mystery of the Doors, like so many of their 60s counterparts, helped keep them in the public imagination for years, with untold books, reissues, and documentaries trying to solve the riddle of what made the band so interesting.

Manzarek slid over to vocals for a couple years after Morrison’s 1971 death, and after reinventing himself as a record producer for punk groups like X, spent the past decade on the road, back under the Doors’ flag, with a number of guest vocalists filling in for Manzarek’s long lost friend.

Ray Manzarek was 74. He died after battling bile duct cancer. 

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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