Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was a singer, songwriter and poet.
Born James Douglas Morrison in Melbourne, Florida, he was the lead singer and lyricist of the popular American rock band The Doors. He was also an author of several poetry books.
Morrison was the son of Admiral George Stephen Morrison and his wife Clara Clark Morrison, both employed by the United States Navy. As an adult, he was estranged from his strict, conservative parents, so much so that, in a 1967 interview, he claimed they were both dead.
According to Morrison, one of the most important events of his life came about in 1947 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."
In 1965, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, he led a bohemian lifestyle in nearby Venice Beach. A chance encounter there with fellow UCLA film student Ray Manzarek led to the formation of The Doors, and they were soon joined by guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. (The name The Doors came from an Aldous Huxley book, The Doors of Perception, in turn borrowed from a line of poetry by William Blake), "When the doors of perception are cleansed/Things will appear as they are, Infinite".
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, "LA 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 adapted into a musical in the 1990s.
Morrison famously lived by another quote—this one from poet William Blake—"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom"; Even before he formed the Doors, he took hallucinogenic drugs, drank alcohol in legendary proportions, and indulged in various bacchanalia, sometimes showing up for recording sessions while inebriated (he can be heard hiccuping on the song "Five To One.")
Morrison's performances have influenced many, including Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Ian Astbury. Live shows often possessed shamanistic qualities. To this day, he is widely regarded as the prototypical rock star: surly, sexy and mysterious. The leather pants he was fond of wearing onstage have since become stereotyped as rock star apparel.
In 1970 Morrison underwent a Wiccan handfasting ceremony, which is similar to a wedding, with writer Patricia Kennealy, but he did not take the ceremony seriously, a fact verified in an interview with Kennealy in the book Rock Wives. The relationship did not endure. Morrison's most consistent and lasting (romantic) relationship was to common law wife Pamela Courson.
In the years after the Doors' meteoric rise to fame with their self-titled debut album and its hit single "Light My Fire", Morrison's "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" lifestyle caught up with him; he eventually became a full-fledged alcoholic, and the band was beginning to suffer as a result of it. During a 1969 concert in Miami, a blind drunk Morrison was charged and ultimately convicted of exposing himself to the audience and simulating fellatio on Krieger as he played.
Morrison moved to Paris in March 1971 with the intention of concentrating on his writing and to quit drinking.
Jim Morrison died in Paris 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 the official report listed "heart attack" as the cause of death. Morrison is buried in the famous Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in eastern Paris: because his fans there are generally perceived as nuisances, leaving litter and graffiti behind them, it has been suggested that a new burial site will have to be found.
The Morrison legend was revived in 1991 with Oliver Stone's biopic The Doors, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison. Kilmer was actually Stone's second choice for the role, the first being Ian Astbury. Incidentally, Astbury would go on to join the new incarnation of The Doors in 2000, as its singer.
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."