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James Douglas 'Jim' Morrison (1943-1971)

 

American rock singer and rock lyric who achieved after his death a cult position among fans. Morrison wished to be accepted as a serious artist, and he published such collections of poetry as An American Prayer (1970) and The Lords and The New Creatures (1971). The song lyrics Morrison wrote for The Doors much reflected the tensions of the time – drug culture, the antiwar movement, avant-garde art. With his early death Morrison has been seen as a voluntary victim of the destructive forces in pop culture. However, he was not ignorat about the consequences of fame and his position as an idol. Morrison once confessed that "We're more interested in the dark side of life, the evil thing, the night time."

"This is the end, beautiful friend.
It hurts to set you free,
But you'll never follow me.
The end of laughter and soft lies.
The end of nights we tried to die.
This is the... end."

James Douglas Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida, on December 8, 1943. His father, George “Steve” Morrison, was a U.S. Navy admiral, born in Georgia in 1920. In 1942, after graduating from the Naval Academy, he had married Clara (Clarke) Morrison, the daughter of a lawyer. In 1946 he returned from the Pacific and during the following years the family moved according to his numerous postings. Jim was their eldest son. When he began performing in public, he broke with his father and mother and never saw them again. George Morrison died in 2008.

Morrison was early interested in literature, he excelled at school, and he had an IQ of 149. Morrison studied theatre arts at the University of California. With his fellow student Ray Manzarek, keyboardist, John Densmore, drummer, and Robbie Kriger, guitarist, he formed a group which was in 1965 christened The Doors. They never added a bass player to their group. Its name was taken from Aldous Huxley's book on mescaline, The Doors of Perception, which quoted William Blake's poem ("If the doors of perception were cleansed / All things would appear infinite"). All the members of the band read much, not only Morrison. Their first album, The Doors (1967), mixed performances from Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weil's 'Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)' to Willie Dixon's 'Back Door Man'. It also included such Doors classics as 'Break on Through' (to the Other Side)' and 'The End'. The lyrics Morrison wrote in 1965 dominated the first two Doors albums. In July 1967 the band had its first single chart success with 'Light My Fire'.

Between childhood, boyhood,
-------------adolescence
& manhood (maturity) there
should be sharp lines drawn w/
Tests, deaths, feasts, rites
stories, songs & judgements

(from Wilderness, 1988)

Like in the late 1950s when the beatniks tried to unite jazz and poetry, Morrison found from music a channel to project his poetry, and add to it a theatrical aspect. Thus improvising and unpredictableness was a part of the band's show on stage. The mythical Lizard King, Morrison's alter ego, appeared first in the best-selling record Waiting for the Sun (1968) in a poem that was printed inside the record jacked. I was entitled 'The Celebration of the Lizard King'. Part of the lyrics were used in 'Not to Touch the Earth' and the complete 'Celebration' appeared on record Absolutely Live (1970).

Morrison's drinking, exhibitionistic performances, and drug-taking badly affected his singing and input at recordings. "Let's just say I was testing the bounds of reality," he confessed in 1969 in Los Angeles. "I was curious to see what would happen. That's all it was: just curiosity." Even FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was familiar with the band, saying: "It is repulsive to right-thinking people and can have serious effects on young people." Subsequently, the Doors and Morrison in particular, were targeted for harassment.

In Miami in 1969 the audience thought it saw Jim's "snake" – he was charged with exposing himself on stage, in full view of 10.000 people. The police did not arrest him on the spot, for fear that it would cause a riot. Next year Morrison was sentenced 8 months' hard labor and a $500 fine for "profanity" and "indecent exposure", but he remained free while the sentence was appealed against. The Soft Parade (1969), which experimented with brass sections, was received with mixed emotions but it had a hit single, 'Touch me'.

After Miami everything changed and Morrison put his leather pants in closet. He grew a beard, started to take distance to his fans, and devote more time with projects outside the band. John Densmore has later told in an interview, that although he knew Jim well, there was so much about him that he could not find out. Possessed by his inner visions and urge to write and create music, Morrison also had troubles to explain his aims. He also felt that his time was running short: "O great creator of being, grant us one more hour / to perform our art and perfect our lives."

In April 1970 Morrison Hotel hit the lists in the U.S. and England. It was hailed as a major comeback. One song on it, 'Queen of the Highway', was dedicated Pamela Courson, his common-law wife, who called herself Pamela Morrison. Jim called Pamela his "cosmic mate". Morrison had also an affair with Linda Ashcroft from 1967 to 1971. With Patricia Kennealy, a rock critic, he had romance which started in 1969; supposedly they were joined in a Wiccan ceromony, known as a Handfasting. Morrison did not take the ritual seriously.

On his 27th birthday, Morrison made the recordings at Elektra's LA studio of his poetry, which later formed the basis of An American Prayer. The Doors played their last concert with Morrison in New Orleans. It was a disaster – Morrison smashed the microphone into the stage, threw the stand into the crowd and slumped down.

After finishing sessions for a new album, L.A. Woman, Morrison escaped to Paris, where he hoped to follow literary career. "See me change," he sang. He never came back from Paris.

Allen Ginsberg's Howl! had a major influence on Morrison's writings. He also had listened Ginsberg recite his poems and once chatted with him in a Jefferson Airplane concert. Morrison's first book, The Lords and the New Creatures, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1971. It went into paperback after selling 15.000 in hardback. An earlier book, An American Prayer, was privately printed in 1970, but not made widely available until 1978. On 3 July 1971 Morrison was found death in his bathtub. He had regurgitated a small amount of blood on the night of July 2, but claimed he felt fine. Recently had consulted a local doctor concerning a respitory problem.

Morrison was buried at Pére Lachaise cemetary in Paris, which houses remains of many famous artists, statesmen and legendaries from Edith Piaf to Oscar Wilde. In 1990 his graffitti-covered headstone was stolen. Pamela Courson Morrison, died in Hollywood of heroin overdose on April 25, 1974. In 1979 Francis Ford Coppola used The Doors' performance of 'The End' in his Vietnam War film, Apocalypse Now, and in 1991 director Oliver Stone made the film biography The Doors, starring Val Kilmer. Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison was published in 1989. It was compiled from the Morrison literary estate by his friends.

For further reading: No One Here Gets Out Alive by Danny Sugerman (1980); Mr. Mojo Risin': Jim Morrison, the Last Holy Fool by David Dalton and J.C. Suares (1991); Riders On The Storm by John Densmore (1990); The Lizard King by Jerry Hopkins (1992); Strange Days by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (1992); The Doors Complete Illustrated Lyrics by Danny Sugerman (ed.); Break On Through by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky (1992); Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel As Poet by Wallace Fowlie (1994); Angels Dance and Angels Die: The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison by Patricia Butler (1998); Light My Fire by Ray Manzarek (1998): Wild Child: Life With Jim Morrison by Linda Ashcroft (1998); The Poet in Exile by Ray Manzarek (2001); Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend by Stephen Davis (2005) - See also: John Lennon
Poems and other fiction and non-fiction by Jim Morrison:
  • An American Prayer, 1970 (poems, privately printed)
  • The Lords and the New Creatures, 1971 (poems)
    - Jumalat & Uudet olennot: runoja (suom. Jantso Jokelin, 2006)
  • Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, 1989
  • The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, vol.1, 1990
  • The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, vol. 2, 1991
Selected discography:
  • The Doors, 1967
  • Strange Days, 1967
  • Waiting for the Sun, 1968
  • The Soft Parade, 1970
  • Absolutely Live, 1970 (the first live album)
  • Morrison Hotel, 1971
  • 13, 1971
  • L.A. Woman, 1971
  • Other Voices, 1971 (without Morrison)
  • Full Circle, 1972 (without Morrison)
  • Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine, 1972
  • The Best of Doors, 1973
  • The Best of Doors, 1974
  • An American Prayer, 1978
  • The Doors Greatest Hits, 1980
  • Alive, She Cried, 1983 (official live Doors album)
  • In Concert, 1991
  • The Doors: Original Soundtrack Recording, 1991
  • An American Prayer, 1995 (reissue with new material)
  • Greatests Hits, 1996
  • Live in Hollywood: Highlights from the Aquarius Theater Performances, 2002
  • Perception, 2007 (40th-anniversary edition;12-disc set)
Videos and films:
Jim Morrison collaborated on a screenplay with poet Michael McClure and produced the film A Feast of Friends, 1970, directed by Paul Ferrara. He had made films to accompany 'Break on Through' and the 1968 single 'The Unknown Soldier'. HWY: An American Pastoral (1969), a 50-minute-long film in which Morrison acted in the leading role, was made in collaboration with Frank Lisciandro, Babe Hill, and Paul Ferrara

 


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