Category: Musician or composer
The Doors were an American rock band, formed in 1965, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger. The band took its name from the title of Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, which itself was a reference to a William Blake quotation: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite." So this should immediately make us sit up and take notice.
They enjoyed considerable commercial success, selling around 32.5 million 'certified units' in the US and over 100 million albums worldwide. This level of commercial success is not always a good sign spiritually, but their music is nearly all inspired music – truly original and haunting. Key to the alchemy of the group was Jim Morrison who was charismatic, wrote lyrics that were essentially poetry, and had a deep memorable voice. And he was beautiful, his body was beautiful and his face was beautiful. After Morrison's death in 1971, the remaining members continued as a trio until finally disbanding in 1973.
Practically all their music is special - The Doors , Strange Days (1967, which is really special), Waiting for the Sun (1968), The Soft Parade (1969), Morrison Hotel (1970), Absolutely Live (1970) and L.A. Woman (1971). Strange Days uses a Moog synthesizer to great effect. Its commercial success was 'middling', which is a good sign.
Although the group as a whole composed their music, it was Morrison's input that was key. He once said that he only “took notes at the fantastic rock-n-roll concert going on in my head". The band members did not get their inspiration from drugs but from meditation and sex – making love and any other form of sexually based techniques they could find. Many of their songs are direct references to spiritual experience – for example "Break On Through (To the Other Side)." "Light My Fire" can be thought of as both sexual and allegoric. It was the first song written by Robby Krieger.
The problem with deriving your inspiration from sex and spirituality is that most people in the USA in positions of power or authority appear to be extremely antagonistic to both. According to Ray Manzarek, for example, the network executives of one TV company asked that the word "higher" be removed from the lyrics of Light my Fire in favor of "better." This is censorship. America – land of the free.
Morrison was continually hounded by the police and courts. For example, Morrison and a fan were indulging in sexual stimulation techniques prior to the start of a concert when they were 'found' – how they were 'found', given they were in a bathroom shower stall, remains something of a mystery. The policeman told them to stop and leave – and Morrison was understandably annoyed.
“The policeman took out a can of mace and warned Morrison, "Last chance", to which Morrison replied, "Last chance to eat it.".... after which both Jim and the fan were sprayed and the concert had to be delayed for an hour while Jim recovered”.
Morrison, who was understandably incensed, then described all this to the audience at which point “the concert was abruptly ended when Morrison was dragged offstage by the police; he was taken to a local police station, photographed and booked on charges of inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity”. The charges against Morrison, as well as those against three journalists also arrested in the incident, were dropped several weeks later due to ‘lack of evidence’.
Jim Morrison was a sensitive poetic soul, and thus psychologically on a knife edge. He turned to alcohol and drugs to help him cope. Needless to say they made things worse. After a show in Amsterdam, Morrison collapsed on stage after a drug binge. Then there was the criticism. Despite the numerous successes and sales of their records, the Doors' fourth album, The Soft Parade, which contained more novel and experimental music “caused critics to attack their musical integrity”. Give me strength.
On March 1, 1969, at the Dinner Key Auditorium in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, things for Morrison really became too much. The auditorium was a converted seaplane hangar. It had no air conditioning, it was a hot night, and the seats had been removed by the promoter in order to boost ticket sales - 12,000 were packed into a facility designed to hold 7,000.
Morrison at this point in the Doors history was unable to cope; whenever there was a crisis or a problem he drank and by the time he eventually arrived, the concert was over an hour late and he was drunk. In an emotional tirade he taunted the crowd, "Love me. I can't take it no more without no good love. I want some lovin'". Money in the end does not compensate for pain and hurt. And he was hurt.
"Somebody jumped up and poured champagne on Jim, so he took his shirt off, he was soaking wet. 'Let's see a little skin, let's get naked,' he said, and the audience started taking their clothes off." Having removed his shirt, Morrison held it in front of his groin area and started to make hand movements behind it. Manzarek later described the incident as a mass "religious hallucination".
On March 5, the Dade County Sheriff's office issued a warrant for Morrison's arrest claiming Morrison “deliberately exposed his penis while on stage, shouted obscenities to the crowd, simulated oral sex on guitarist Robby Krieger and was drunk at the time of his performance”. In any other country but America this would not be classified as a crime. In the UK it would be televised. Morrison was eventually convicted, sentenced to six months in jail, with hard labor, and ordered to pay a $500 fine. Can you imagine what that did to him? He was already on the borderline of sanity and in danger of flipping completely from the hurt inflicted on him. Densmore, Krieger and Manzarek have denied the allegation that Morrison exposed himself on stage that night, but it hardly matters in the circumstances.
During the recording of their next album, in November 1969, Morrison once again found himself in trouble with the law after supposedly “harassing airline staff”. In any other country but America he would have simply been removed from the airplane [if true] but in the USA “Morrison could have faced a ten-year federal prison sentence for the incident”! The charges were dropped in April 1970, after an airline stewardess reversed her testimony to say she mistakenly identified Morrison.
The 1970 LP Morrison Hotel, was described by the US critics as "without any doubt their ballsiest (and best) album to date" and "Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade". It is dreadful.
On December 8, 1970, his 27th birthday, Morrison recorded a poetry session. Part of this would end up on An American Prayer in 1978 with music.
During the Doors' last public performance with Morrison, at The Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 12, 1970, Morrison apparently had a breakdown on stage.
The last record that the Doors produced that had any contribution from Jim Morrison was L.A. Woman. You can tell which are Morrison's songs – they are a cry into the wilderness – a great wail of distress at injustice, hurt, the American dream and what it can do to the gifted. And the song that most encapsulates this cry is "Riders on the Storm". This album, of all the albums, shows what effect emotional pain can have on the truly sensitive, the poet, the spiritual, it can raise them to unbelievable heights of creativity, but it can kill them.
His girlfriend Pamela Courson persuaded Morrison to leave the Doors and leave the USA, with its false glitter and shabby values and move to Paris, writing poetry and songs and living more at peace in a country whose values are perhaps a bit more in line with a spiritually minded person. But it was too late, he was hooked on booze and he was hooked on drugs.
Morrison died on July 3, 1971. In the official account of his death, he was found in a Paris apartment bathtub by Courson. “Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner claimed to have found no evidence of foul play”. In France they leave you to die in peace. The death certificate said he died of 'heart failure', a broken heart. Morrison was born in the wrong country, he should have been French or Italian, where all that sexual energy could have been harnessed and he would have been loved.
Morrison was buried in the "Poets Corner" of Père Lachaise Cemetery on July 7. The epitaph on his headstone bears the Greek inscription ""ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ", literally meaning "According to his own daimon" – his Higher spirit. He was 27 years old.
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