The Doors, Ray Manzarek

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Ray Manzarek was instrumental in breaking The Doors on through to the other side of pioneering superstardom.

The iconic L.A. band's founding keyboardist died Monday in Germany after a long battle with bile duct cancer, his family announced. He was 74.

Manzarek, who continued to play with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger long after frontman Jim Morrison died at only 27 in 1971, had been undergoing treatment at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim. His wife, Dorothy, and brothers Rick and James were said to have been by his side when he passed.

Born in Chicago, Manzarek met Morrison when they were both students at UCLA and then had a chance encounter with him in Venice, Calif., in 1965. What happened next is the stuff of rock and roll history (and the very disturbing 1991 Oliver Stone film The Doors, in which Manzarek was played by Kyle MacLachlan).

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

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The "Light My Fire" rockers, though the original foursome burned bright and flamed out within five years due to Morrison's demons, have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. 

A couple years after Morrison died, Manzarek and Krieger made two albums as The Butts Band, after which Manzarek recorded three solo albums and formed the band Nite City. He also fronted a jazz band, which released a self-titled debut, Tribaljazz, in 2006.

He and Krieger started touring as, fittingly, Manzarek-Krieger (or, sometimes, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors) in 2002, with the main event being their band's old hits.

In addition to his wife and brothers, Manzarek is survived by his son, Pablo; Pablo's wife, Sharmin; and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending and mourners are being asked to donate to in lieu of sending flowers.

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