Glowingly described by one music journalist as "One of the most influential keyboard players in the history of rock," Ray Manzarek achieved a surprisingly diverse series of musical accomplishments, but is best known as the keyboardist for the psychedelic rock band the Doors, a position he held from 1965 through 1973 (two years after Jim Morrison's death). Though originally a law student, and then a film student at UCLA, Windy City native Manzarek remained wholly fascinated by music, especially boogie woogie; the UCLA tenure introduced him to fellow students and Jim Morrison and Robby Krieger. Sensing a common thread, the three teamed up with drummer John Densmore to form the Doors and quickly connected with the youth movement, who turned them into rock icons. Following Morrison's untimely death in 1971, the band attempted to remain together with Manzarek on vocals, but the attempts failed to match the emotional power of the original ensemble and the Doors quickly dissolved.
In subsequent years, Manzarek branched out into numerous directions, with varying degrees of success; he first issued a series of solo albums, then formed the short-lived ensemble Ray Manzarek's Nite City in the late '70s, an outfit with a very terse lifespan. In the '80s and '90s, Manzarek's accomplishments included contributing to the punk act X's seminal LP Los Angeles (1980) as a producer, issuing a solo album about minstrels and opera entitled Carmina Burana (1983), and collaborating with beat poet Michael McClure on the avant-garde release Love Lion (1993), as well as issuing a Doors tribute album. The keyboardist expressed extreme dislike of the Oliver Stone-directed Jim Morrison biopic The Doors (1991).
Cinematically, Manzarek made the majority of his appearances in Doors performance films, though he authored the soundtrack to the 2000 feature Love Her Madly and participated as an interviewee in the 2007 documentary Obscene, about Grove Press founder Barney Rosset. Manzarek went back into the studio with slide guitarist Roy Rogers for the 2011 album Translucent Blues, which reached No. 3 on the Roots Music Report's Top 100 Roots Rock Albums of 2011. Sadly, Manzarek died in May of 2013 after a long battle with bile duct cancer at the age of74.