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Keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors dies at age 74

Riders On The Storm's Ray Manzarek performs during a concert of their European tour which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the band The
Riders On The Storm's Ray Manzarek performs during a concert of their European tour which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the band The

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ray Manzarek, a founding member and keyboardist of 1960s rock group The Doors, died on Monday at a medical clinic in Germany at age 74 following a battle with cancer, the group's manager Tom Vitorino said.

Manzarek, who lived in Northern California's Napa Valley wine country for the past decade, had been seeking treatment in Germany for bile duct cancer, Vitorino said. He died in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his wife and brothers.

Singer Jim Morrison and then-UCLA film student Manzarek formed The Doors in 1965 after a chance meeting at Los Angeles' Venice Beach, and Manzarek's keyboard work would go on to be a touchstone of hits like "Break On Through to the Other Side" and "Light My Fire."

The band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, sold some 100 million records since its heyday with psychedelic-era classics such as 1971's "Riders on the Storm."

Manzarek's electric organ was a defining aspect next to Morrison's booming voice in the band's blues- and jazz-influenced take on rock and roll.

"I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today," The Doors guitarist 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."

The Doors broke up shortly after Morrison's death from heart failure in 1971, but their mythology exploded following the 1980 publication of the biography "No One Here Gets Out Alive" and the 1991 film, "The Doors," by director Oliver Stone.

The band recorded a total of eight albums between 1967 and 1972. After the band's break up, Manzarek released two albums with the rock band "Nite City" in the late 1970s and six solo albums, most recently "Translucent Blues" in 2011 with blues-rock guitarist Roy Rogers.

Manzarek and Krieger became locked in a legal battle with drummer John Densmore in 2003 after the two reunited under The Doors name and later "The Doors of the 21st Century," but were finally forced to tour as Manzarek-Krieger.

Manzarek, who was born in Chicago in 1939, embraced old age in a 2006 interview with Reuters.

"We occupy these bodies for 70, 80, 90 years, and it's so much fun being alive on planet Earth that you want to keep this thing as fresh as you possibly can," he said.

"The spirit, the mind, the soul, what's inside of you just gets hipper and hipper as you get older. ... You get a whole broadened outlook on things," he added. "That just naturally keeps going, but the damn body slows down."

Manzarek is also the author of two novels and most notably the 1998 memoir, "Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors."

Manzarek is survived by his wife, Dorothy, two brothers, a son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)

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