Jim Morrison

Occupation: Mass-media phenomenon, Musician, Singer, Songwriter
Date of Birth: December 8, 1943
Date of Death: July 3, 1971
Place of Birth: Melbourne, Fla., USA
Sign: Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Taurus
Education: UCLA


THERE'S a bit of lore that Jim Morrison liked to tell: when he was 4 years old, his family drove past an overturned truck on a highway in New Mexico, where a number of Pueblo Indians lay on the road, dying. The scene upset the young Morrison considerably, and he would later tell friends that when the family drove away, the soul of a dying Indian passed into his body. That story is often used (as it was in director Oliver Stone's biopic The Doors) to explain the quality that made Morrison one of the most charismatic and mythologized performers in rock-and-roll history during his time with the group the Doors. "He was a shaman," said Ray Manzarek, the Doors' keyboardist. "He was an electric shaman."

Morrison, the son of a U.S. Navy rear admiral, and Manzarek met in the mid-'60s at U.C.L.A., where they were both studying film. They decided to form a band, one that was less influenced by the music of the time than by Manzarek's interest in blues, as well as the jazz orientation of guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Atop this mixture were Morrison's lyrics  image-rich poems inspired by the writings of Nietzsche, Blake, Rimbaud, and others, about lust, alienation, and the search for a higher existence.

The mood of the Doors' music was dark and daring and  best of all  erotic. On the first chorus of the group's self-titled 1967 debut album, Morrison announced the goal, to "break on through to the other side." The Beatles wanted to hold your hand. The Rolling Stones wanted to spend the night together. But the Doors wanted to light your fire. Even that was tame compared to "The End," a modern Oedipal parable  "Father, I want to kill you/ Mother, I want to . . . " Well, you know. It was shocking enough to get the group banned from Los Angeles's famed Whisky-a-Go-Go nightclub, and a signal that the Doors were a force to be reckoned with.

With Morrison out front, egging on ever-growing crowds, the Doors created the aura of danger, taboo, and uncharted territory, even if the journey was really a little safer than it seemed. The group's music was ultimately accessible, with songs such as "Light My Fire," "People Are Strange," "Hello, I Love You," and "Touch Me" rolling into the Top 20. And Morrison played pop star to the hilt  taking off his shirt, wearing tight leather pants, and posing for spreads in all the teen magazines.

But there was certainly a darker side to Morrison: he was an alcoholic and a heavy drug user, sexually promiscuous and prone to reckless and violent behavior. Despite his reputation as an electrifying performer, Morrison was hopelessly inconsistent onstage; the Doors' concert career was effectively neutered in 1969, when a drunken Morrison was convicted of exposing himself onstage in Miami. Soon thereafter, he moved to Paris, where he died of a heart attack, in 1971.

The Doors arguably became more popular after Morrison's death. In 1979, Francis Ford Coppola made "The End" a centerpiece in his epic Apocalypse Now, and the 1980 biography of Morrison and the band, No One Here Gets Out Alive, written by former Doors gofer Danny Sugarman, was a bestseller. The same year, The Doors Greatest Hits was released and went on to sell two million copies. In the early eighties, the Doors were selling about 750,000 albums a year, prompting Rolling Stone to publish a photo of Morrison on the cover proclaiming "He's hot, he's sexy, and he's dead."

The Doors  who broke up in 1973, after the remaining trio recorded two albums without Morrison  remain an ongoing concern. In 1991, Oliver Stone's film starring Val Kilmer further mythologized Morrison. During 1996, the greatest-hits album and Absolutely Live were re-released. Since his death, Morrison's grave in Paris' famed Père Lachaise cemetery is dotted with gifts and graffiti from a constant pilgrimage of fans. "I love it," Manzarek has said. "To me, it's a process; every five years, there's a new generation of 15-year-olds discovering the Doors."

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