Jim Morrison

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James Douglas Morrison
December 8 1943
Melbourne, Florida, USA
For other people named James or Jim Morrison, see James Morrison

James Douglas "Jim" Morrison (December 8, 1943July 3, 1971) was a singer, songwriter, writer, and poet. Born in Melbourne, Florida, he was the lead singer and lyricist of the popular American rock band The Doors, and is considered to be one of the most charismatic frontmen in the history of rock music. He was also an author of several poetry books, a documentary, short film and an early music video ("The Unknown Soldier"). Morrison's untimely death at the age of 27 in Paris, France stunned his fans. The circumstances of his death and secret burial have been the subject of endless rumors and play a significant part in the mystique that continues to surround him.



Early years

Of Scottish ancestry, Morrison was the son of Admiral George Stephen Morrison and Clara Clark Morrison, who met in Hawaii in 1942 where Steve Morrison, then an ensign, was stationed.

In 1943, a pregnant Clara Morrison moved to Clearwater, Florida to live with her in-laws (Paul and Caroline Morrison) while Steve Morrison trained as a pilot at a nearby base for the United States Navy. Once Ensign Morrison's flight training was complete in the spring of 1944, he left to serve in the Pacific front for the duration of World War II. (Later he would achieve the rank of Admiral and command the local fleet from his flagship, USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) during the Tonkin Gulf incident.) Clara stayed in Florida with her new son; her husband would not return to see his family until the summer of 1946. In time, Jim would find himself with a younger sister, Anne Robin (born 1947 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) and a brother, Andrew "Andy" Lee (born 1948 in Los Altos, California).

According to Morrison, one of the most important events of his life came about in 1949 during a family trip in New Mexico. He described the event as follows:

The first time I discovered death... me and my mother and father, and my grandmother and grandfather, were driving through the desert at dawn. A truckload of Indians had either hit another car or something — there were Indians scattered all over the highway, bleeding to death. I was just a kid, so I had to stay in the car while my father and grandfather went to check it out. I didn't see nothing — all I saw was funny red paint and people lying around, but I knew something was happening, because I could dig the vibrations of the people around me, and all of a sudden I realized that they didn't know what was happening any more than I did. That was the first time I tasted fear... and I do think, at that moment, the souls of those dead Indians — maybe one or two of them — were just running around, freaking out, and just landed in my soul, and I was like a sponge, ready to sit there and absorb it.

Morrison would later revisit this event in the bridge to the song "Peace Frog": "Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding / Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile egg–shell mind."

Both of Morrison's parents claimed that event never happened. In his many comments about this episode, Morrison stated that he was so upset by the incident that his parents eventually told him he was "just having a bad dream," in order to calm him down. Regardless of whether the incident was real, imagined, or fabricated, Morrison stuck with it and made repeated references to the imagery in his songs, poems, and interviews.

Morrison graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria, Virginia in June 1961. Following Morrison's father, the family was transferred to Southern California that August. Morrison was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Clearwater, Florida, where he attended classes at St. Petersburg Junior College.

The move made economic sense since Morrison's father maintained his permanent residence at his parent's address in Florida, a common arrangement for those with a career in military service. This would enable Morrison to attend the Florida colleges for a reduced tuition.

But living with his strict, non-drinking grandparents may have posed some difficulties for Morrison. He later transferred to Florida State University (1962-1963), which still afforded a favorable tuition but was too far away for a reasonable commute. Morrison thus moved close to the FSU campus where, for a time, he was a roommate of George Greer, and appeared in a school recruitment film [1].

In January 1964, urged on by an FSU professor who recognized Morrison's fascination with cinema, Morrison headed for Los Angeles, California where he completed his undergraduate education at UCLA, majoring in film. Although his parents strongly preferred that he graduate from FSU, when Jim transferred to UCLA, they continued to support him.

Artistic roots

As a naval family, the Morrisons relocated frequently. Consequently, Morrison's early education was routinely disrupted as he moved from school to school. Nonetheless, he proved to be an intelligent and capable student drawn to the study of literature, poetry, religion, philosophy, and psychology, among other fields.

Morrison's penchant for academic pursuits is greatly overshadowed by his reputation as a rebel and hedonist but these interests are clearly reflected in his development as a poet/lyricist and are essential to understanding his vision for musical performance coupled with elements of theater.

Biographers have consistently pointed to a number of writers and philosophers who influenced Morrison's thinking and, perhaps, behavior.

While still in his teens, Morrison discovered the works of existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzche. He was also drawn to the dark symbolist poets of the 19th century, notably the British poet William Blake, and the French poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.

Beat Generation writers, such as Jack Kerouac, also had a strong influence on Morrison's outlook and manner of expression. Morrison was eager to experience the life described in Kerouac's On The Road and went about doing so. He was similarly drawn to the works of the French beat writer, Louis Ferdinand Destouches, known as Céline. Céline's book, Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (Journey to the End of the Night) and Blake's Auguries of Innocence both echo through one of Morrison's haunting, early songs, "End of the Night." Eventually Morrison got to meet and become a friend of Michael McClure, a well known beat poet he much admired. McClure had enjoyed Morrison's lyrics but was even more impressed by his poetry and encouraged him to further develop his craft.

Morrison's vision of the art and psychology of performance was colored by the works of 20th century French playwright Antonin Artaud (author of Theater and its Double) and by Julien Beck's Living Theater. But perhaps the most influential work was a rather obscure, 19th century work by Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds. Morrison began practicing MacKay's insights regarding influencing and manipulating crowds while still in college.

Other works relating to religion, mysticism, ancient myth and symbology were of lasting interest, paticularly Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces. James Frazer's The Golden Bough also became a source of inspiration and is reflected in the title and starting lines of the song Not to Touch the Earth.

Morrison was particularly attracted to the myths and religions of Native American cultures. While he was still in school, his family moved to New Mexico where he got to see some of the places and artifacts important to Native American cultures. These interests appear to be the source of many references to creatures and places, such as lizards, snakes, deserts and "ancient lakes" that appear in his songs and poetry. The practices of the Native American shaman were worked into some of Morrison's stage routine in a variation of the shaman's Ghost Dance, and a song on his later poetry album, The Ghost Song. The song Wild Child was also inspired by Native American rhythm and ritual, but often interpreted to be about one of Morrison's literary influences, Arthur Rimbaud.

Morrison's strong fascination with religion, metaphysics, and the occult have caused many to wonder what his own religious beliefs were. Unfortunately, Morrison never publicly stated whether he subscribed to any particular religion, but he was raised in the Presbyterian faith.

With The Doors


In 1965, after graduating from film school at UCLA, Morrison led a Bohemian lifestyle in nearby Venice Beach. Due to a regimen of little food and lots of LSD, by 1966 the formerly pudgy Morrison had trimmed down to the chiseled rock-god immortalised in the famed series of black-and-white photos taken by photographer Joel Brodsky. Known as "The Young Lion" photo session, it included the iconic, bare-chested "Christ" pose, a shot that was featured on the Best of the Doors LP cover (shown at right).

Morrison wowed fellow UCLA student Ray Manzarek with a reading of his lyrics for "Moonlight Drive," and the two formed The Doors. They were soon joined by drummer John Densmore. Guitarist Robby Krieger auditioned at Densmore's recommendation, and was immediately added to the lineup.

The name The Doors came from an Aldous Huxley book, The Doors of Perception, which, in its turn, borrowed from a line of poetry by William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite." A door can be seen as a transition between two worlds; you don't know what's going on in the other world until you cross that transition. As Morrison put it, "There are things known and things unknown, and in between are the doors."

The Doors' sound was a significant innovation, dominated by Morrison's deep, sonorous baritone voice, against the interplay of Manzarek's keyboards, Krieger's flamenco and classically influenced guitar style and Densmore's crisp, fluid drumming. The Doors were unique because they didn't have a bass guitar in the lineup. Manzarek provided bass lines on his newly-released Fender keyboard bass, a small bass-scale version of the famous Fender electric piano. Although the group did augment their studio recordings with bass players (including Lonnie Mack), The Doors appeared as a four-piece in concert, apart from occasions when they were joined by special guests such as John Sebastian.

Lyrically, The Doors broke new ground in rock music, with Morrison's complex, surrealist, allusive lyrics exploring themes of sex, mysticism, drugs, murder, madness and death. Although Morrison is known as the lyricist for the group, this is not entirely accurate, as Morrison himself was always at pains to point out. Significant lyrical contributions were made by Krieger, who wrote or co-wrote some of the group's biggest hits, including "Light My Fire" and "Touch Me."

Morrison and Manzarek's film school education was put to effective use early. Decades before music videos became common-place, Morrison and The Doors produced a promotional film for Break On Through, which was to be their first single release. The video was simple but professional in quality. It featured the four members of the group playing the song on a darkened set with alternating views and close-ups of the performers while Morrison lip synced the lyrics. Morrison and The Doors continued to make innovative music videos including ones for The Unknown Soldier and People Are Strange.

The Doors were first noticed on the national level in the spring of 1967 after signing to the Elektra Records label. The single "Light My Fire," written by Krieger, hit number one in June 1967. Three months later, The Doors appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety series that had earlier introduced a young, wriggling Elvis Presley and the Beatles to the United States.

By the release of their second album, Strange Days, The Doors had became one of the most popular rock bands in the United States. Their blend of blues, jazz and rock tinged with psychedelia had never before been heard. The Doors' eclectic repertoire included a swag of stunning original songs and distinctive cover versions, such as the memorable rendition of "Alabama Song," from Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill's operetta, "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny." The four also broke new ground in rock music with their extended concept works, including the famous epic songs, "The End" and "When The Music's Over," and the extended suite which they played in concert, "The Celebration of the Lizard."

By the late 1960s, the pressure of pop stardom was taking its toll on Morrison. The formerly svelte, 5 ft 11 in singer began to balloon due to his rapidly escalating drinking. Although the cover of the 1970 Absolutely Live LP depicts a trim, clean-shaven, leather-trousered Morrison on the front, this photo had in fact been taken about two years earlier. By the time of the tour on which the live album was recorded, Morrison was 20 pounds heavier (175 pounds). It was during this time that he tried to get away from the "Lizard King" image -- he grew a beard and started wearing regular slacks and jeans and T-shirts.

Morrison famously lived by an oft repeated quote from William Blake: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Even before the formation of The Doors, he took copious amounts of LSD in the band's early years, but soon switched to alcohol, which he began to consume in herculean proportions, and he reportedly indulged in various bacchanalia. He would sometimes show up for recording sessions extremely inebriated (he can be heard hiccuping on the song "Five To One"). Eventually such excesses took their toll.

During a 1969 concert at The Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, an intoxicated Morrison was arrested on March 1, charged and ultimately convicted of indecent exposure and public profanity. Fallout from that event resulted in much negative publicity and the cancellation of many of The Doors' scheduled concerts.

Following Morrison's conviction, The Doors began to change direction with the production and successful release of the Morrison Hotel / Hard Rock Cafe LP. It featured much grittier, blues-based sound and saw the group returning to its blues and R&B roots. By this time they had all but exhausted the cache of songs that Morrison had written in the early days of the group, and which had provided most of the material on their first three LPs.

After a lengthy break, the group reconvened in late 1970 to record what proved to be their last LP with Morrison, L.A. Woman. It solidified the group's return to its musical roots and featured songs that would quickly become among its most popular, including the title track, the pounding "Texas Radio and the Big Beat" and the album's epic closer "Riders on the Storm," which instantly became an FM radio staple.

The L.A. Woman album also witnessed another major change in the group's recording career. Shortly after sessions began, producer Paul A. Rothchild -- who had overseen all their previous recordings -- walked off the project, disenchanted with the band's new material, which he dismissed as "lounge music" and was "bored" after the band ran through the material in a bad manner. Long-serving engineer Bruce Botnick took over and produced an album that many fans consider The Doors best after their 1967 debut. It also displayed a growing maturity in Morrison's singing. Amusingly, several of his vocals were performed in the bathroom at The Doors' offices, due to the excellent acoustics, particularly in relation to the reverberation quality.

Among Morrison's more famous nicknames are "Mr. Mojo Risin', " an anagram of his name, which he eventually used as a refrain in his final single, "L.A. Woman", and "The Lizard King" from a line in his famed epic poem Celebration of the Lizard, part of which appeared on The Doors' 1968 album Waiting for the Sun and which was finally captured in full on the Absolutely Live double LP in 1969; it was subsequently adapted into a musical in the 1990s.

Solo Efforts: Poetry and Film

First and foremost, Morrison saw himself as a poet. He began writing as a school boy, carrying notebooks with him everywhere he went, jotting down thoughts and observations as they occurred to him. He continued that habit to the end of his life. Morrison was especially enamored of poets such as Rimbaud and Baudelaire who became renowned poets at a very young age. In college, he became interested in theater, film and cinematography. These media allowed for a tangible presentation or environment for Morrison's words and would enable the icons and symbols that filled his works to be made visible. Morrison, always eager to master any subject he undertook, spoke positively about the brief history of film. Because the medium was so new, any student could learn nearly as much as his professors knew. This quality appealed to Morrison a great deal and he saw it as an open invitation to creativity.

Even though Morrison was a well known singer and lyricist, he encountered difficulty when searching for a publisher for his poetry, especially for the type of poetry he wanted to produce rather than the lyrics that had their own independent audience. Morrison wanted his poetry to be taken seriously, not packaged as simple pop songs, as main line publishers preferred. After much consideration and at the urging of poet Michael McClure, Morrison self published two slim volumes, The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures. Both works were dedicated to "Pamela Susan" (Courson). These were the only writings to be published during Morrison's lifetime.

The Lords consists primarily of brief descriptions of places, people, events and Morrison's thoughts on cinema. They often read as short, prose paragraphs strung together by what seems to be little more than the pages upon which they appear. McClure, however, regards the lines about the cinematic vision to be insightful and adept, describing the work as Morrison's deconstruction of his UCLA thesis on film. The New Creatures verses are more poem-like in structure, feel and appearance. These two books were later combined into a single volume titled The Lords and The New Creatures,and published by the mainstream press to the great joy of fans.

Much later, two posthumous volumes of poetry were published, both of them selected and arranged by Morrison's good friend, the photographer Frank Lisciandro, and Mr. and Mrs. Columbus Courson, Pamela's parents, who owned the rights to Jim's poetry, among other items. "The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison" Volume 1 is titled Wilderness, and upon its release in 1988 became an instant New York Times best seller. Volume 2, The American Night, released in 1990, was also a success.

Only on one occasion did Morrison record his spoken word poetry in a studio. Legend has it that the solo voice recording was made by him on December 8, 1970, his 27th birthday. Years later, the tapes of that session were discovered and in 1978 the remaining Doors got together and recorded a musical backdrop for the readings. The work was released as An American Prayer and reached number 54 on the music charts, unusual for a poetry album.

Morrison had little opportunity to exercise his passion for film before his death. His best known but seldom seen cinematic endeavor is "HWY, a project begun in 1969. Morrison financed the venture and formed his own production company in order to maintain complete independence in its making. He was assisted by Paul Ferrara, Frank Lisciandro and Babe Hill. More of an art film than a commercial endeavor, Morrison played what is essentially the sole continuing character, a hitchhiker turned killer car thief. This same or very similar character is alluded to in the song Riders On The Storm. Morrison deliberately chose another musician to compose and perform the rather minimalist soundtrack. The film shows the influence of other producer-directors of independent art films: Warhol, Antonioni, Godard and Anger.

Personal life

Family Relationships

Jim's early life was a nomadic existence typical of military families. Although the elder Morrison was a figure of great authority, his official duties caused him to be absent much of the time. When the then Captain Morrison was home, he could not freely discuss his activities, particularly those at Los Alamos, New Mexico, since they were of a classified nature. Thus it was Morrison's mother Clara who became the dominant personality in the Morrison household.

Jerry Hopkins records Morrison's brother Andy explaining that his parents had determined to never use corporal punishment on their children and they kept that resolution. Instead, they instilled discipline and levied punishment by the military "tradition" known as dressing down. This consisted of yelling at and berating the children until they were reduced to tears and acknowledged their failings. Andy said that although he could never keep from crying, Jim learned to tough it out and never shed a tear.

Biographers record that during his youth, Morrison was a dutiful and respectful son who excelled at school and greatly enjoyed swimming and other outdoor activities. His parents hoped he would follow in his father's military footsteps and, for quite some time, Morrison was happy to emulate his father, intending to study at Annapolis. This perfect picture was not to last.

In adolescence, Morrison discovered the "wonders" of alcohol and embarked on a life-long pattern of alcohol and substance abuse. The once obedient boy became openly rebellious and resistant to all authority. Although his teachers recognized his intelligence (he allegedly had an IQ of 149), he was often disruptive in class and became a discipline problem. Nonetheless, according to high school girlfriend Tandy Martin, he was well liked enough to be offered membership in the most exclusive fraternities. He turned down the offers.

Jim also discovered the joys of sex and pursued that interest with vigor, putting his experiences and fantasies to strong effect in his poetry and songs.

Once Morrison graduated from UCLA, he broke off most of his family contact. By the time Morrison's music ascended the top of the charts in 1967, he had not been in communication with his family for more than a year and falsely claimed that his parents and siblings were dead. This misinformation was published as part of the materials distributed with the first Doors album.

These events have caused many to surmise that there was great animosity within the family and that the frightening lyrics that painted a bloody picture of murder, rape, and incest were, if not exactly factual, representative of Morrison's feelings and suggested a pathological family background. However, since the family never spoke publicly about their son, and Andy and Anne have gone on record to state that they had a "normal, but strict upbringing," this is one more subject the biographers have used to distort the true nature of the Morrison household. Jim rebelled against his strict upbringing and his parents who represented "The Establishment," plain and simple, as many other kids did in the turbulent 1960s and beyond.

While it is tempting to read a poet's work as autobiography, it is not often a very productive endeavor, particularly when the author writes about the dark side of human nature. Although we cannot know what went on inside the Lizard King's heart or within the Morrison household, the Morrisons, who refrained from speaking with the press, have stated through their attorneys that they considered the statements regarding their deaths to be an attempt to shield them from the prying eyes of the media. They understood the disturbing lyrics to have been inspired by events recounted in Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood.

Whether Morrison was actually trying to protect his family's privacy, it may have been professionally convenient for all concerned to keep out of the glare of publicity. At the same time that Morrison's songs were saturating the airwaves, his father had become the youngest Admiral in the U.S. Navy, stationed in the Pacific during the very contentious Vietnam War. Having the Admiral publicly associated with the subversive genius of The Doors may not have been smiled upon by the military hierarchy; likewise, the young rebel's popular image was the antithesis of the military establishment that he had come to loathe.

Perhaps some insight can be gained from a letter sent by the Admiral in support of his son to the probation officer in charge of Morrison's case following his conviction in the Florida courts. In that letter, the Admiral spoke of the mutual affection his three children had for one another. He also expressed pride in his son's amazing musical achievements and great concern and sorrow at his difficulties in Florida. The Admiral strongly defended Jim's fundamental character then added, "I will always follow his progress with the greatest of interest and concern and stand ready to assist him in any way, should he ask."

Morrison's father acknowledged the breakdown in family communications but placed the burden for that on himself saying that he could not blame Jim for being reluctant to initiate contact. It was the Admiral who had wrongly berated Jim for seeking a loan from a family friend to finance his early musical career. The Admiral had gone even further, ridiculing Jim's interests and belittling his talent. Morrison's success had clearly proved the Admiral to be wrong in his assessment of his son's abilities, but the damage had been done.

Love and Sex

Morrison, a blatant philanderer, never lacked the attentions of women, including that of his long-term companion, Pamela Courson. Courson met Morrison well before he gained any fame or fortune and encouraged him to develop his poetry, which was his true creative passion. At times, Courson used Morrison's name with his apparent consent and Morrison referred to Courson's parents as "the in-laws."

It is said that Courson was not happy with the demands that The Doors placed upon Morrison's time and talents, claiming that they detracted from his more literary efforts. Be that as it may, she certainly benefited from Morrison's earnings, which he seemed happy to lavish upon her. He financed the opening of Themis, an upscale clothing boutique that she designed and managed. When the boutique's expenses grew to astonishing proportions, the Doors' accountant urged Morrison to scale back his subsidies to Courson. Morrison responded that he'd rather spend money on Courson than on accountants.

Still, their relationship was a stormy one with frequent loud arguments followed by tearful reunions. Danny Sugerman surmised that part of their difficulties may have stemmed from a conflict between what they perceived to be their philosophical commitment to the ideal of an open relationship and the emotionally painful consequences of living in such a relationship. Since neither could admit that they couldn't bear the other's sexual pursuits, their arguments burst out from what would seem to be trivialities.

Although Morrison rented apartments for Courson and would live with her on a regular basis, he frequently stayed in hotels or slept at the Doors' office. When he bought a bungalow in Topanga Canyon, it was in Courson's name rather than his own. (It was long believed that the bungalow was the only residence that Morrison acquired, but in March, 2006, his long-time body guard, Tony Funches, told the press that Morrison actually owned a home on Kings Road, just above the Sunset Strip not far from the Hyatt Hotel. Funches added that Morrison seldom stayed at the Kings Road house and bought it on the advice of his accountants as a tax write-off.)

Right before he left for Paris, Morrison called Courson his "cosmic mate" when speaking with a friend. In Jim's will, he left his entire estate to her, naming her co-executor of the estate, along with his attorney Max Fink. After Morrison's death, the California probate courts recognized Courson as his common-law wife when she sought a widow's allowance while claims against the estate were being litigated. This ruling has puzzled some and angered others who rightly point out that California is not a "common law" state. But California must recognize the laws of other states and Courson was able to convince the court that she and Morrison established a common-law marriage while in Colorado.

Although Courson met Morrison early in his career, she was not his first love. In high school, Morrison had a girlfriend, Tandy Martin, who he would charm, tease, and, with regularity, infuriate. While attending college in Florida, Morrison met and fell in love with a woman by the name of Mary Werbelow. When Morrison transferred to UCLA, Werbelow followed him to California. Werbelow was well liked by the other Doors and Morrison's friends and family but the relationship did not last. After a small disagreement, Morrison turned to another young woman for comfort. When Werbelow discovered a naked Morrison at the woman's apartment, she was so hurt that she broke up with Morrison. Although they would speak from time to time they were never again a couple. Ray Manzarek has said that Morrison wrote The End as a memorial to this lost love. In a 1990 letter to the Los Angeles Times, John Densmore stated that the song The Crystal Ship was also written for and about Werbelow.

In 1970, Morrison participated in a Wiccan handfasting ceremony, which fantasy writer Patricia Kennealy now insists was a wedding of some sort although such ceremonies are not recognized by law. According to Kennealy's autobiography (Strange Days: My Life With And Without Jim Morrison), at the time the ceremony occurred, both she and Morrison recognized its non-binding legal nature. Morrison, however, did not appear to take the ceremony seriously even on an emotional level, and the relationship did not endure beyond a dozen or so encounters scattered across a year or two. Kennealy discussed her experiences with Morrison in her autobiography and in an interview reported in the book Rock Wives.

Morrison sampled the pleasures of his fans and groupies with regularity. He also had numerous short flings with women who were celebrities in their own right, including one with Nico from Velvet Underground, a one night stand with singer Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane and an alcohol fueled encounter with Janis Joplin that left Joplin in tears. Judy Huddleston also recalls her relationship with Morrison in Living and Dying with Jim Morrison. At the time of his death, there were reportedly as many as 20 paternity actions pending against Morrison. It should be noted, however, that no claims were made against his estate by any of the putative paternity claimants and the only person making a public claim to being Morrison's son was shown to be a fraud.

Morrison's sensual good looks and overt interest in carnality made him a sexual fantasy object of not just his female fans, but quite a few male admirers. He was often referred to by reviewers as having an androgynous appeal that went along with his "polymorphic pansexual" writings. McClure has said he never understood the androgeny comments, pointing out that Morrison, among other things, was as "strong as a horse."


Image:Jim-Morrison Pere Lachaise 2.jpg Morrison moved to Paris in March 1971 with the intention of taking a break from performing and concentrating on his writing. Hoping to get his life back on track, Morrison lost a great deal of weight and shaved off his beard.

He died shortly thereafter on July 3 1971, in his bathtub at the age of 27. Many fans and biographers have speculated that the cause of death was a drug overdose, but according to the official report, the cause of death was heart failure. No autopsy was performed because the medical examiner, pursuant to French law, found no evidence of foul play or criminality. The lack of an official autopsy left many questions unanswered and provided a fertile breeding ground for speculation and rumor.

In his autobiographical novel Wonderland Avenue, former Doors associate Danny Sugerman recounts that he briefly met with Pamela Courson when she returned to America in the mid-1970s. According to his account, Courson told him that Morrison had in fact died of a heroin overdose when he inhaled copious amounts of the substance believing it to be cocaine. Sugerman added that Courson had also given numerous contradictory versions of Morrison's death but the majority of fans seem to have accepted the mistaken heroin overdose account. Courson herself died of a heroin overdose shortly after being recognized as Morrison's common law wife by the California court in which his estate was undergoing probate proceedings. Like Morrison, she was 27 years old at the time of her death.

Morrison is buried in "The Poets' Corner" of the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in eastern Paris. In the past, some of his fans were nuisances, leaving litter, graffiti, and cannabis behind to the point where the gravesite is surrounded by a fence. Well-publicized complaints by numerous families of the deceased about desecration of surrounding grave sites led many to expect that Morrison's remains would be forcibly relocated when the 30-year lease to his plot expired. Parisian authorities, however, have denied any such intention. Indeed, Morrison's grave has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris, along with Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. In 1993, his parents visited the site and made arrangements with a cleaning company to have the graffiti removed from the nearby tombstones. (WGS84: Template:Coor dms)

Many fans have attempted to translate the Greek inscription found on the headstone of Morrison's grave. As transcribed into Roman lettering: KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY. Various interpretations have been proposed, including, "down (presumably in Hell) with his own demons", "burnt by his demons", "with the devil himself," and other creative possibilities. But in ancient Greek, the word daimon means spirit rather than demon and contains no negative or pejorative qualities. The phrase is more properly translated as "True to his own spirit," and is the meaning intended by the Morrison family when the inscription was selected. It was Morrison's father who either selected the phrase or drafted it himself. The Admiral, being widely read in the ancient Koine Greek (the original language of the New Testament) and other dialects chose a phrase that fit both the philosophy and reality of his son's life as well as providing a fitting link to Morrison's long abiding interest in ancient myth and symbology.

In a sad irony, on the same day that Morrison died in Paris, his father was in Washington, giving the keynote speech at the decommisioning of the USS Bon Homme Richard, the naval ship upon which he had served for many years. Neither he nor any other member of the Morrison family learned of Morrison's death until it was announced on the radio and television news. Much later they received the official notice from the US State Department's office in Paris.

Some conspiracy theorists contend that Morrison did not die in Paris. The fact that only two people (other than the police, emergency personnel, and mortician), admitted to the press that they had seen his body, has helped keep the rumor alive for over thirty years.

Throughout Morrison's turbulent career, there had been numerous rumors that he had been killed in an auto accident or had died of a drug overdose. Also, in the days preceding the anouncement of his death, the press had been told that Morrison was simply "very tired" and resting in an un-named French hospital. Perhaps, then, it isn't so surprising that fans would doubt the reality of his passing.

Jerry Hopkins recounts, in The Lizard King that well before the Doors achieved noticeable success, Morrison had joked that he should fake his own death in order to generate publicity. According to some of Morrison's friends and band mates, once the Doors had achieved their remarkable success, publicity was no longer seen as being so desirable. Morrison then spoke of wanting to fake his death and move to Africa in order to escape the scrutiny that surrounded his every move. He told them that if he could succeed with the ruse, he would write to them using the pseudonym "Mr. Mojo Risin."

Such a disappearing act would have paralleled the life of one of Morrison's favorite French poets, Arthur Rimbaud. According to Robbie Krieger and other Doors members, they have yet to receive any letters. Nonetheless, some fans still feel his death was a hoax.

Speculation about the cause and actuality of Morrison's death plays a large and continuing role in the Morrison mystique. Rumors still abound that Morrison committed suicide, was assassinated by the C.I.A., murdered by a witch, died in a toilet at the notorious Rock and Roll Circus (a nightclub in Paris) or any number of variations. Add to that persistent rumors that he is still alive and living in India, Africa, South America, as a cowboy in Oregon, or above a Quik-Check in New Jersey and the Morrison legend has taken on a life of its own. It may be fitting that Morrison the man, always fascinated by ancient mythology, has merged with the image of Morrison as Dionysus, the ever dying, ever re-born god of ecstasy of ancient Greece.


Morrison remains one of the most popular and influential singers in rock history, as The Doors' catalogue has become a staple of classic rock radio stations. To this day, he is widely regarded as the prototypical rock star: surly, sexy and mysterious. The leather pants he was fond of wearing both onstage and off have since become stereotyped as rock star apparel.

Morrison's performances have influenced many, including Patti Smith, Ian Curtis, David Gahan, Henry Rollins, Ian Astbury, Perry Farrell, Scott Weiland, Trent Reznor, Scott Stapp, Eddie Vedder, and even Marilyn Manson.

The legendary punk prototypes Iggy and the Stooges are said to have formed after lead singer Iggy Pop was inspired by Morrison while attending a Doors concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of Iggy's best received songs, "The Passenger," was based on one of Morrison's poems.

When Thom Yorke wails out "I want to be Jim Morrison," on Radiohead's "Anyone Can Play Guitar," he expresses the sentiments of generations of would-be rock idols.

What is striking, however, is that although many have aspired to Morrison's look, attitude and lifestyle, often with some success, no one has ever been able to capture the Morrison sound, mystique or poetic sensibility.

Beat poet McClure has written a poem, For Jim Morrison, in honor of their friendship. He recites this work at his poetry readings with some regularity, often to the accompaniment of Ray Manzarek's keyboards.

On a more cerebral level, Wallace Fowlie, professor emeritus of French literature at Duke University and internationally recognized expert on the poet Arthur Rimbaud, wrote Rimbaud and Jim Morrison, subtitled "The Rebel as Poet – A Memoir." In this book, Prof. Fowlie recounts his surprise at receiving a fan letter from Morrison who, in 1968, thanked Fowlie for his latest translation of Rimbaud's verse into English. "I don't read French easily," he wrote, "...your book travels around with me." This was Fowlie's introduction to Jim Morrison. When he finally encountered the music of The Doors, he immediately recognized Rimbaud's influence in the lyrics. Fowlie went on to give lectures on numerous campuses comparing the lives, philosophies and poetry of Morrison and Rimbaud. Other colleges saw the obvious value of adding Morrison to their coverage of symbolist and modern poetry classes and such courses flourished, luring many students into a serious study of poetry.

Jim Morrison in fiction

In the early 1980s, low budget filmmaker Larry Buchanan made the film Beyond the Doors aka Down On Us, which advanced the theory that Morrison, along with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, were killed by the government in an attempt to stamp out "radicals."

The story of Morrison's life was filmed in 1991 by Oliver Stone in his biopic The Doors, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison. The film was critically well-received, but a commercial failure. The surviving Doors were reportedly not pleased with the historical liberties that Stone took with their story. Fans believed it failed to show Morrison's poetic side, and only delved into his hedonistic, self-destructive "Lizard King" persona. Kilmer was Stone's second choice for the role, the first being The Cult lead-singer Ian Astbury (which Astbury declined), although it was also reported that Kyle MacLachlan (who played Manzarek) had originally wanted to play the Morrison role himself. Astbury went on to join the new incarnation of The Doors (Doors 21st Century) in 2000 as lead singer. [2]

Although it has not been confirmed, Bob Burden, creator of the underground comic book series Flaming Carrot Comics has dropped several clues that the title superhero is supposed to be Morrison.

In Stephen King's 1990 release of The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition, Stu Redman confides a story to Fran Goldsmith about meeting a sojourner with "eyes of a man who has been trying to look into the dark for a long time and has maybe begun to see what is there." He then reveals to her that he believes the man was Jim Morrison, alive but maybe not so well.

In Wayne's World 2, Michael A. Nickles portrays Jim Morrison in one of Wayne's (portrayed by Mike Myers) dreams in a desert. His famous line "If you book them, they will come" (an homage to Field of Dreams) sets up the major plotline. The comedy also includes a Native American who makes mysterious appearances, another homage, this time to Stone's movie The Doors.

Lewis Shiner's 1993 novel Glimpses (winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel), follows Ray Shackleford as he takes part in a series of alternative universes to help complete several mythic unfinished music albums: The Beatles' Get Back, Brian Wilson's SMiLE (now finished), Jimi Hendrix's First Rays of the New Rising Sun, and The Door's Celebration of the Lizard. Fictionalized versions of Wilson, Hendrix, and Morrison appear in the novel.

Jim Morrison & The Doors' Legacy

Jim Morrison often claimed he walked in the footsteps of French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) ("I am a Rimbaud with a leather jacket", he once said). Some sources say, although it's unverified, that while in France at the end of his life, Jim did the Charleville "pilgrimage" - the birthplace of Rimbaud in the North of France. In any event, this lineage between "the man with the soles of wind" (Rimbaud's nickame) and "the Lizard King" (Jim's nickname) is very fitting ; both incarnated the bravado and the rebellion of youth against a conservative society that seeks to quelch the individual through social control ; both were brilliant individuals torn between their ambition to shake things up through their art and their temptation to drift away, before being caught up and finally struck down by their inner demons ; but most of all, they were visionaries with a profound and mystical feeling that there is something "more", something "beyond", something that their poetry and music allowed us to touch, if only for a brief moment. "If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it's to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel", Jim once said. And that is exactly what he and the Doors achieved : with their hauntingly beautiful music, that stays with you long after "the music's over", they take us to uncharted territories. They let us "break on through to the other side", however briefly. They did indeed open the "doors of perception", doors that can never be shut again. And that is probably the true legacy of Jim Morrison and the Doors.

A quote

"People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain."

Books about Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison's Poetry Books

External links


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