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Doors Keyboardist Ray Manzarek Dead at 74

Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Ray Manzarek, founding keyboardist for the Doors, died earlier today (May 20) at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, according to a press release. The 74-year-old rock legend had been battling bile duct cancer, and he’s said to have died with his wife, Dorothy, and two brothers by his side.

Born Feb. 12, 1939, in Chicago, Manzarek formed the doors in 1965, after meeting aspiring poet (and soon-to-be Lizard King) Jim Morrison on L.A.’s Venice Beach. The latter half of the decade saw the Doors become one of the most influential — and controversial — bands of the era, and their mystical sound and outlaw image inspired scores of artists, among them Iggy Pop, who might never have become a rock frontman (and, you know, invented punk) had he not seen the group play the University of Michigan in 1967.

Manzarek’s jazz- and classical-inspired organ playing was a giant part of the Doors’ sound — imagine hits like ‘Light My Fire’ without it — and even after the band went kaput in 1971 following Morrison’s death, he remained a towering figure, recording solo material, writing books and working with younger bands, most notably (at least for Diffuser.fm readers) L.A. punk luminaries X and British Doors disciples Echo and the Bunnymen.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today,” former Doors bandmate Robby Krieger said in a statement.  “I’m just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last decade.  Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.”

Read a List of the 10 Best Ray Manzarek Doors Songs

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