- Category : Singer - Popular
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Separation 2
James Douglas Morrison (8 December 1943 – 3 July 1971) was an American singer, songwriter, writer, actor, and poet.
He was best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the popular American rock band The Doors, and is considered to be one of the most charismatic frontmen in the history of rock music. He was also an author of several poetry books, a documentary, short film, and three early music videos ("The Unknown Soldier","Moonlight Drive", and "People are Strange"). Morrison died in Paris at the age of 27. The circumstances of his death and burial are not fully known.
Morrison was born on 8 December, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida, to Admiral George Stephen Morrison and Clara Clarke Morrison. Morrison had a sister and a brother. Anne Robin Morrison was born in 1947 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while Andrew Lee Morrison was born 1948 in Red Bluff, California.
In 1949, Morrison purportedly saw the wreckage from a car accident. It is an incident depicted in the 1991 film The Doors. Unfortunately, there is a debate as to whether or not the incident took place. Regardless of whether the incident was real, imagined, or fabricated, Morrison made repeated references to it in the imagery in his songs, poems, and interviews.
In 1958, Morrison attended Alameda High School near Oakland. However, he graduated from George Washington High School (now George Washington Middle School) in Alexandria, Virginia in June 1961.
Morrison went to live with his paternal grandparents in Clearwater, Florida, where he attended classes at St. Petersburg Junior College. In 1962, he transferred to Florida State University. During his one year there, he was a roommate of George Greer, who later served as judge on the Terri Schiavo case. During this time, he appeared in a school recruitment film.
In January 1964, Morrison moved to Los Angeles, California. He completed his undergraduate degree in UCLA's film school, the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965. Jim made two films while attending UCLA. "First Love", the first of the two films, was released to the public when it appeared in a documentary about the film called "Obscura."
Jim Morrison (far left) with his bandmates in The Doors. From left to right: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore.In 1965, after graduating from UCLA, Morrison led a Bohemian lifestyle in nearby Venice Beach. Photographer Joel Brodsky took a series of black-and-white photos of Morrison. Known as "The Young Lion" photo session, the pictures included the shot that was later featured on the Best of the Doors LP cover.
Morrison and fellow UCLA student Ray Manzarek were the first two members of The Doors. Shortly thereafter, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger joined. Krieger auditioned at Densmore's recommendation, and was then added to the lineup.
While it is widely believed that the Doors took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, Huxley's own title was a quote from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which Blake wrote that "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."
In June 1966, at the famed Whisky-A-Go-Go, The Doors were the opening act for the Irish group Them, whose leader was Van Morrison. According to Ray Manzarek, in his book, Light My Fire, "Jim was transfixed by Van. He studied his every move. He put the eye on him and he absorbed....The last night... saw us all in a monster jam session...Jim Morrison and Van Morrison onstage at the same time! And singing "Gloria.'"
Although Morrison is known as the lyricist for the group, Krieger also made significant lyrical contributions, writing or co-writing some of the group's biggest hits, including "Light My Fire", "Love Me Two Times" and "Touch Me."
Decades before music videos became commonplace, Morrison and The Doors produced a promotional film for "Break On Through," which was to be their first single release. The video featured the four members of the group playing the song on a darkened set with alternating views and close-ups of the performers while Morrison lip-synced the lyrics. Morrison and The Doors continued to make music videos, including "The Unknown Soldier", "Moonlight Drive", and "People Are Strange".
The Doors achieved national recognition in 1967 after signing with Elektra Records. The single "Light My Fire", written by Krieger, eventually reached number one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Later, The Doors appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety series that had introduced The Beatles and a young, wriggling Elvis Presley to the nation. According to the Oliver Stone film The Doors, the incident became notorious after the censors insisted that they change the lyrics of "Light My Fire" from 'Girl we couldn't get much higher' to 'Girl we couldn't get much better'. This was due to the reference to drugs in the original lyric. The original video footage reveals Jim Morrison highlighting not the word "higher" but instead "fire", suggesting Morrison intended to remind audiences of the 12th Street Riot of July, 1967 where fires spread from northwest Detroit to the East Side.
Giving assurances to host Ed Sullivan, Morrison sang the song with the original lyrics anyway on live TV. This infuriated Sullivan so much that he refused to shake their hands after their performance. They were never invited back. To this, Jim responded:
"So what? We already did the Ed Sullivan Show."
By the release of their second album, Strange Days, The Doors had become one of the most popular rock bands in the United States. Their blend of blues and rock tinged with psychedelia included a number of original songs and distinctive cover versions, such as the memorable rendition of "Alabama Song", from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's operetta, "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny". The band also performed a number of extended concept works, including the songs "The End", "When The Music's Over", and "Celebration of the Lizard".
In 1968, The Doors released their third studio LP, Waiting for the Sun. Their fourth LP, The Soft Parade, was released in 1969. It was the first album where the individual band members were given credit on the inner-sleeve for the songs they had written.
After this, Morrison started to show up for recording sessions inebriated (he can be heard hiccuping on the song "Five To One"). He was also frequently late for live performances. As a result, the band would play instrumental music or force Ray Manzarek to take on the singing duties.
By 1969, the formerly svelte singer began to grow larger in size. At this time, Morrison began to change his appearance. He grew a beard and wore regular slacks, jeans and T-shirts.
During a 1969 concert at The Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, Morrison attempted to spark a riot in the audience. He failed, but a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Dade County Police department three days later for indecent exposure. By this time the band was on vacation in Jamaica. Eventually, Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and public profanity. Consequently, many of The Doors' scheduled concerts were cancelled.
Following The Soft Parade, The Doors released the Morrison Hotel LP. After a lengthy break, the group reconvened in October 1970 to record their last LP with Morrison, L.A. Woman. Shortly after the recording sessions for the album began, producer Paul A. Rothchild -- who had overseen all their previous recordings -- left the project. Engineer Bruce Botnick took over as producer.
Solo: poetry and film
Morrison began writing in adolescence. In college, he studied the related fields of theater, film and cinematography.
He self-published two volumes of his poetry in 1969, The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures. Both works were dedicated to "Pamela Susan" (Courson). The Lords consists primarily of brief descriptions of places, people, events and Morrison's thoughts on cinema. The New Creatures verses are more poetic in structure, feel and appearance.
Morrison befriended Beat Poet Michael McClure. McClure wrote the Afterword for Danny Sugerman's biography of Morrison.
After his death, two volumes of poetry were published. The contents of the books were selected and arranged by Morrison's friend, photographer Frank Lisciandro, and Courson's parents, who owned the rights to his poetry. The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison Volume 1 is titled Wilderness, and, upon its release in 1988, became an instant New York Times best seller. Volume 2, The American Night, released in 1990, was also a success.
Morrison recorded his own poetry in a professional sound studio on two separate occasions. The first was in March 1969 in Los Angeles and the second was on December 8, 1970, his 27th birthday. The latter recording session was attended by personal friends of Morrison and included a variety of sketch pieces. Some of the tapes from the 1969 session were later used as part of the Doors' An American Prayer album, released in 1978. The album reached number 54 on the music charts. The poetry recorded from the December 1970 session remains unreleased to this day and is in the possession of the Courson family.
Morrison's best-known but seldom seen cinematic endeavor is HWY, a project he started in 1969. Morrison financed the venture and formed his own production company in order to maintain complete control of the project. Paul Ferrara, Frank Lisciandro and Babe Hill assisted with the project. Morrison played the main character, a hitchhiker turned killer/car thief. This same or very similar character is alluded to in Riders On The Storm. Morrison asked his friend, composer/pianist Fred Myrow, to select the eclectic soundtrack for the film. The film shows the influence of other producer-directors of independent art films, such as Andy Warhol, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Jean-Luc Godard.