Born on the 8th December 1943, in Melbourne Florida, Jim Morrison was an American Rock singer and songwriter. It was whilst studying Film at UCLA, he met other students with a love of music, and collectively, they became ‘The Doors’.
James Douglas Morrison was the son to father George a naval aviator who rose to the rank of Real Admiral and mother Clara a homemaker. His father was the commander of the United States USS Bon Homme Richard during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident that helped stimulate the Vietnam War.
Admiral Morrison had a great ear for music and could replicate most songs on the piano just by hearing them a couple of times. He loved nothing more than entertaining his friends at private parties.
Morrison’s adolescence moulded a highly intelligent child excelling with his passion for reading, writing and drawing.
Tragedy would have a profound impact on Morrison and later being the catalyst for a song he penned titled ‘Peace Frog’. The day was simple enough, a family driving through the New Mexico desert. After sighting a truck in the distance, overturned, his father chose to stop and render assistance where he could. As many lay wounded and dead around them, a young Morrison struggled to come to terms over the years with the traumatic experience. I think these lyrics say it all:-
“Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding/ Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind.”
After graduation in 1961, he had his sights on the complete works of Nietzsche and asked his parents to purchase it as a graduation present for him.
After High School, Morrison returned to Florida where he attended Florida State University in Tallahassee and from there he transferred to the University of California to study film. In addition to his studies, he also developed a passion for writing and reading poetry and it wasn’t long before he was writing his own pieces. He shortly after lost all interest in the film industry, and would have left it altogether if it wasn’t for his fear of being drafted to fight the Vietnam War, so he stayed with it and graduated in 1965. For reasons unknown, he decided to miss the graduation ceremony, opting to receive his diploma in the mail.
1965 and living a bohemian rooftop lifestyle, he and friend Dennis Jakobs penned many songs that the Doors would later perform live and record on albums. Two of the most notable are “Moonlight Drive and Hello, I love you“.
If you ask Jakobs what it was like during that time, he would say that he lived on canned beans and LSD for several months.
Morrison and fellow UCLA student Ray Manzarek were the first two members who came together forming ‘the Doors’ in the Summer of 1965. The two had known each other as fellow cinematography students, and Manzarek was impressed by Morrison’s poetic poems. Manzerak was keen to transfer his poems into music as most had that “Rock Star” feel. To complete the band, drummer John Densmore was added and he recommended friend Robby Krieger who played guitar.
If your wondering how they came up with the name of the band, they took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book ‘The Doors of Perception’.
In 1966 when Elektra Records heard their demo’s, they signed them up straight away, and the following year, they released their self titled debut album.
Their debut single ‘Break on through’ achieved only moderate success, however their second single “Light my Fire’ catapulted them rock stardom after the song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 but even greater things were to come with a live performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“Light My Fire” to this very day remains ‘The Doors’ most popular and notable song.
Over the next several years between 1967 and 1978, a flurry of albums graced our radio’s with their notable eclectic brand of psychedelic rock music.
- The Doors (1967)
- Strange Days (1967)
- Waiting for the Sun (1968)
- The Soft Parade (1969)
- Morrison Hotel (1970)
- L.A. Woman (1971)
- Other Voices (1971)
- Full Circle (1972)
- An American Prayer (1978)
At the peak of their career, Morrison’s life began spiralling out of control. Alcoholism and drugs led to violent and profane outbursts onstage.
Morrison seemed to like living a double life. He was briefly married to Patricia Kennealy, however spent most of his life with another woman named Pamela Courson. Along with his drug and alcohol addiction, he also couldn’t control his womanising.
Then on the evening of the 9th of December 1967, Morrison was high as a kite when just before a show, he was canoodling with a woman when the police confronted him. His violent temper and drug use, reared it’s ugly head and the police sprayed his face with mace. He then somehow staggered out onto the stage and delivered a profanity laced tirade of abuse which sparked a riot with his fans. He was later arrested and charged with obscenity.
In an attempt to get his life back on track, he and Courson decided to relocate to Paris. A move which forced the bands break-up. Try as he might, his dependency on drugs and alcohol was completely out of control and this led to severe depression.
On 3rd of July 1971, Courson was shocked to find Morrison dead in the bathtub of the apartment they shared. French officials found no evidence of foul play, and cause of death was documented as a heart attack. No autopsy was performed, which subsequently led to endless speculation and conspiracy theories
Morrison never returned to America, and was buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
The Doors have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, 2002, 2010.
In 2007 and they won the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and in 2011 they won a Grammy for Best Music Film.
In Morrisons short 27 years, endless drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and severe depression deprived the world of how Morrison articulated himself through his music and poetry.
In his own words, “There are things known, and there are things Unknown, and in between are The Doors”.