James Douglas Morrison was a poet, lead vocalist, and lyricist for the 1960s rock band The Doors. He was born on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida to Rear Admiral George Morrison and his wife Clara.
Known for his bold, on-stage performances, Morrison’s fans deemed him a reincarnation of the Greek god Dionysus and considered him the epitome of rock and roll. Others, however, considered him nothing more than an egotistical, drunken fool. His voice was that of a baritone crooner, and he possessed the mysticism of a poetic charmer. Morrison had a profound interest in the rituals of shamanism and often spoke on the subject. He himself was a self-proclaimed shaman.
In 1965, while walking along Venice Beach, a 21-year-old Jim Morrison stumbled upon fellow UCLA Film School graduate and acquaintance, Ray Manzarek. While discussing music, art, and their respective futures, a shy Morrison reluctantly sang to Manzarek the lyrics to a song he had written called Moonlight Drive. It was at that moment, on the sandy shores of Venice Beach, the Doors came to be. John Densmore and Robby Krieger would join Morrison and Manzarek, and together they would go on to make rock and roll history. In 1967, their song Light my Fire exploded onto the music charts and remains the band’s biggest hit to date.
Regarded by many as a high intellect and even a genius, it was very common to see Morrison toting around books and other various literary pieces. His poetry and philosophy influences came from the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Along with his thirst for knowledge, Morrison’s isolated bohemian life style, fueled by the psychedelic drug LSD, also empowered a large sum of his artistic ambitions.
Morrison’s rock and roll lifestyle, which consisted of hard drinking and heavy drug taking, produced a steady stream of friction and uncertainty for the band and its future. While performing in New Haven, Connecticut on December 9, 1967, Morrison’s reckless on-stage performance granted him a night in the New Haven jail for public obscenity, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest. Less than two years later, in Miami, Florida, Morrison picked up a lewd behavior charge. This triggered a nation-wide ban on the Doors by many US venues.
In March 1971, Jim Morrison chose to put his rock star life on hold and moved to Paris, France with his common-law wife Pamela Courson. There, he could shed the image that he had come to loath, and focus his energy entirely on his real passion of writing poetry. However, that was not to be, and the move turned out to be his last.
On July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison died at the age of twenty-seven. Although Morrison’s death certificate displays heart failure as the cause of death, to this day there remains much speculation and mystery regarding his premature passing. Buried in Piere Lachaise Cemetery, along with many other famous artists and revolutionaries, Morrison’s gravesite remains the most visited plot throughout the cemetery.
Although their ensemble was brief, and their contributions make up only a mere snippet of rock and roll folklore, the Doors’ influence on music and pop culture will undoubtedly last for years to come.