In the time of the early and mid 1960’s, while experimentation was being done with drugs and music a band appeared making hit after hit. They stirred up an almost cult-like following, and it didn’t take long for the lead singer to reach almost iconic status.
The Doors borrowed their name from a poem by William Blake, who wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite.”
After meeting at the University of California in 1966, Jim Morrison combined his poetic lyricism and became the lead singer, with fellow student Ray Manzarek’s classical music training and his piano talent. Guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore also joined. Amidst the heavy use of drugs such as LSD and alcohol a style of psychedelic rock and roll was created that had never been heard before.
The same year that they met they were signed with Elektra Records. They soon released a series of experimental albums with a solid rock and roll, psychedelia and blues sound. Their debut album the following year featured well-known hits such as “Light My Fir,” “Break On Through,” and “Twentieth Century Fox.” Also in 1967 they released the album Strange Days, which included the well-known songs “People Are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times.”
Morrison’s charismatic stage presence is the biggest reason why The Doors had such a large cult-like following and Morrison himself was soon revered by his fans as a type of god and so began referring to himself as the “Lizard King.”
The Doors continued to produce music although they became more and more involved in their drug-addicted world. Waiting for the Sun (1968) and The Soft Parade (1969) were followed by Morrison Hotel in 1970. All three albums contained only random hits. L.A. Woman released in 1971 was the final Doors album featuring Jim Morrison.
Morrison and his band members were becoming more and more involved with drugs and alcohol. Towards the end of his life, Morrison was consuming large amounts of alcohol everyday. In 1969, after an excessive drinking binge, Morrison appeared on stage before an audience of thirteen thousand in Florida. He exposed himself to crowd of screaming fans. Members of the community were outraged and consequently he was arrested and found guilty of indecent exposure and public drunkenness. He was sentenced to six months of hard labor. The sentence was appealed and he died before a new trial was held.
On July 3, 1971 his wife Pamela Courson found Morrison, then only 28, dead in his Paris hotel. Although his death was most likely due to a drug overdose it was ruled a heart attack, and an autopsy was never performed. He was buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Frederic Chopin and Edith Piaf are buried. His graveside is still attended regularly by flocks of adoring fans leaving various personal mementos such as, notes, graffiti, cigarettes, photographs, condoms, and drug paraphenelia.
The Doors made a great impact on music history. They are still listened to today, about 25 years after they rocked our parents. Ray Manzarek, the pianist of The Doors, described the group in 1967, by saying, “I think The Doors is a representative American group. America is a melting pot and so are we. Our influences spring from a myriad of sources, which we have amalgated, blending divergent styles into our own thing.”