Feb. 12, 1939 – May 20, 2013

Ray Manzarek, who studied economics in college but cherished music and met with Jim Morrison on a California beach one fateful day in 1965 to help create The Doors, died Monday at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany.

Manzarek, 74, who had lived for years in California’s Napa County, had bile duct cancer.

Led by the charismatic Morrison, with his mystical wildness and commanding physical presence, and driven by the power of Manzarek on the organ, the band worked its way into the soul of the 1960s counterculture.

Much of what The Doors became known for was owed to Manzarek, with his penchant for blending musical streams and currents, old and new, from blues to classical, with spoken poetry and an overlay of the psychedelic. The band’s biggest hits include “Light My Fire,” “L.A. Woman” and “Break On Through.”

Morrison’s death in 1971 broke the spell. Manzarek, a considerable talent in his own right, struck out for himself. He continued to make music, alone or in bands, through this year, and he exerted great influence on other keyboard artists.

Manzarek had played bass parts for The Doors on a piano. He also mastered the combo organ. He played guitar and percussion instruments as well as the keyboards, and he sometimes sang. He was heard in a half-dozen subgenres of rock. When the punk movement began to flourish in Los Angeles, Manzarek worked in production with the band known as X on the punk landmark album Los Angeles.

The Doors and Morrison remained in Manzarek’s life. Over the years, he disputed the portrayal of the band in a 1991 Oliver Stone film.

“Didn’t think much of it at all,” Manzarek was quoted in 1995 in an Australian newspaper. “It just wasn’t the real Jim Morrison ... The Jim we knew was much more sensitive, poetic, artistic, spiritual.”

Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. was born in Chicago on Feb. 12, 1939. He graduated in economics from DePaul University.

He had planned on law school, but at the University of California at Los Angeles, he quickly switched to the film school, where he first met Morrison. After they finished up, they met again, by chance, on Venice Beach.

Morrison sang, Manzarek liked it, and The Doors were founded. Drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger were enlisted soon afterward. Manzarek wrote a memoir, “Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors,” which was published in 1998. He also published two novels, including “The Poet in Exile,” which appeared in 2001 and dealt with the rumor that Morrison might still be alive.

Manzarek’s survivors include his wife, Dorothy; a son, Pablo; and two brothers.

Morrison was credited with much of the durability of The Doors. But, Manzarek once said, “As the keyboard player, one would think that the music might have had something to do” with it.

– Washington Post