Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek, American keyboard player with The Doors was born 12th February 1939. Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr. was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. WhileGrowing up, he took private piano lessons from Bruno Michelotti and others. He originally wanted to play basketball, but he wanted to play only power forward or center. When he was sixteen his coach insisted either he play guard or not at all and he quit the team. Manzarek said later if it was not for that ultimatum, he might never have been with The Doors. He went to Everett Elementary School on South Bell Street and attended St. Rita of Cascia High School. In 1956, he matriculated at DePaul University, where he played piano in his fraternity’s jazz band (the Beta Pi Mu Combo), participated in intramural football, served as treasurer of the Speech Club, and organized a charity concert with Sonny Rollins and Dave Brubeck. He graduated from the University’s College of Commerce with a degree in economics in 1960.

In 1961, Manzarek briefly enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. Unable to acclimate to the curriculum, he transferred to the Department of Motion Pictures, Television and Radio as a graduate student before dropping out altogether after breaking up with a girlfriend. Although he attempted to enlist in the Army Signal Corps as a camera operator on a drunken lark during a visit to New York City, he was instead assigned to the highly selective Army Security Agency as a prospective intelligence analyst in Okinawa and then Laos. While in the Army, Manzarek played in various musical ensembles and first smoked and grew cannabis. However, because he wanted to eventually visit Poland, he refused to sign the requisite security clearance and was discharged as a private first class after several months of undesignated duty. According to Britt Leach, a fellow Army Security Agency enlistee, Manzarek “had collected an entire duffel bag” of cannabis specimens during his service in Laos; this may have been used to fund his subsequent graduate education.

After returning to the United States, he re-enrolled in UCLA’s graduate film program in 1962, where he received a M.F.A. in cinematography in 1965. he also met future wife Dorothy Fujikawa and undergraduate film student Jim Morrison. At the time, Manzarek was in a band called Rick & the Ravens with his brothers Rick and Jim. Shortly after finishing film school Manzarek met Jim Morrison met by chance on Venice Beach in California. Morrison said he had written some songs, and Manzarek expressed an interest in hearing them, whereupon Morrison sang rough versions of “Moonlight Drive,” “My Eyes Have Seen You” and “Summer’s Almost Gone.” Manzarek liked the songs and co-founded The Doors with Morrison at that moment. Drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger auditioned soon after and were then added to the lineup. Three of them shared a common interest in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s meditation practices at the time, attending scheduled classes, however Morrison was not involved in this series of classes, claiming later that he “did not meditate”. The Doors took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception (a reference to the “unlocking” of “doors of perception” through psychedelic drug use). Huxley’s own title was a quotation from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which Blake wrote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

The Doors signed with Elektra Records in 1967 and became hugely successful after releasing The single “Light My Fire” which spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in July/August 1967. Later, The Doors appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety series that had introduced The Beatles and Elvis Presley to the United States. Ed Sullivan requested two songs from The Doors for the show, “People Are Strange”, and “Light My Fire”. Morrison also began writing during his adolescence. At UCLA he studied the related fields of theater, film, and cinematography. He self-published two separate volumes of his poetry in 1969, entitled The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures. The Lords consists primarily of brief descriptions of places, people, events and Morrison’s thoughts on cinema, but The New Creatures verses are more poetic in tone.

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