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Ray Manzarek in requiem

Ray Manzarek was a true believer, he believed in the talent of Jim Morrison, he believed in The Doors as a musical force with a future and a legacy, right from the beginning. He was the Apollonian side to Jim Morrison’s Dionysus. He was born February 12, 1939 he would have been 75 today.

Ray Manzarek at the Sundance Film Festival January 2009
Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images

Manzarek grew up on the south side of Chicago, learned how to play piano getting an education in classical playing, and from visits with his father to Chicago’s Maxwell street became exposed to the blues. When Elvis burst onto the national scene in 1957 the teenage Manzarek was receiving the message. He visited Chicago area blues bars and heard the likes of Muddy Waters, adding to his musical education.

Manzarek got a degree from DePaul University in Chicago but soon joined the army and was assigned to a USO unit, but he soon discovered army life wasn’t for him and he told his superiors he thought he was becoming homosexual and he was discharged. Manzarek joined his relocated family in Los Angeles and looking for a way to make a living and an outlet for his creativity he enrolled at the UCLA film school, at about the same time Jim Morrison did.

Manzarek and Morrison hung out in the same loose group of friends that included Dennis Jakob, Paul Ferrara, Frank Lisciandro, and John DeBella. At UCLA Manzarek directed two student films “Evergreen” and “Induction” and became somewhat famous for refusing to edit out scenes of “Evergreen” that the schools administrators felt were too racy. Manzarek was also mentioned in a Newsweek article on the film school. Manzarek also met his future wife Dorothy Fujikawa when they were both students at UCLA, she starred in his films and after Manzarek graduated they moved in together.

After graduation Manzarek was still at loose ends on how to make a living creatively. He had a meeting at one of the Hollywood studios but realized their philosophies on film making didn’t mesh. It was a little after this that Manzarek was sitting in front of his Venice Beach house that he saw Jim Morrison walking along the surf line, Morrison saw him and Manzarek asked what he had been doing and Morrison replied “writing songs” and from there the two created The Doors and one of the most legendary beginning of a band in rock history.

The Doors period of Manzarek’s life was easily the most creative period of his life that coincided with one of the most remarkable periods of American history that would become known as the 60’s. Despite this creative high point Jim Morrison’s mercurial personality some times made life in the band if not difficult than publically controversial with incidents of being arrested in New Haven and Miami, the later leading to a trial that just about ended The Doors touring career.

After Morrison’s death in 1971 and he and the other surviving members of The Doors went on with two more albums under The Doors banner, but felt it wasn’t the same and the closed The Doors.

Part II of Ray Manzarek’s in requiem.

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