by Erika Cox
The Doors were one of the most popular acts of the late 1960’s displaying all of the complexity and controversy that evolved around the 1960’s. Their group’s lead singer, Jim Morrison, was one of the most controversial and complicated artists during this time, which made the group’s personality, sound, and image dark and deviant.
The Doors formed in 1965 in Los Angeles when two UCLA film students, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek became friends. Morrison had been writing songs and Manzarek encouraged him to start a band. Starting a band was the popular thing to do during this time after the British Invasion, and in particularly, the Beatles exploded on the music scene.
The group consisted of Jim Morrison on lead vocals born on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida. Ray Manzarek on keyboards born on February 12, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. John Densmore on drums born December 1, 1944 in Los Angeles, Ca., and Robby Krieger on guitar born on January 9, 1946 also in Los Angeles, Ca. The band did not have a bassist, so Manzarek would often play a bass sound on the keyboard. The group got their name from one of Morrison’s favorite books, the Doors of Perception, by author Aldous Huxley and later revised by poet William Blake.
The group performed in local clubs including the famous club, Whisky a Go Go. There they were discovered by Paul Rothchild and signed to Elektra Records. The group hit it big in 1967 with their most popular hit song, “Light My Fire.” “Light My Fire” was the number one song during what was known as the Summer of Love. However, the Doors didn’t perform at the famous Summer of Love festival, the Monterey Pop Festival that occurred in June of the same year.
Morrison’s physical appearance and stage performances helped the band become an instant success. He became one of the major sex symbols during this time. However, his antics, along with his alcohol and drug abuse would also make him a controversial figure.
He would eventually become frustrated and despondent with the pressures of success, refusing to sing and changing his appearance. Some of his famous or infamous incidents took place on stage or on TV. During a performance at the Whisky a Go Go, he shouted a profane obscenity laced statement that banned the group from playing at the club. Luckily for them, shortly after this incident they signed with Elektra.
The next incident came when the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Asked not to say the word “higher”, Morrison defiantly said it anyway, which got them banned from ever performing on the show again.
Morrison was arrested many times on stage for his antics. He would often shout out obscenities during live performances, which was not a proper thing to do during the 1960’s. But his most infamous incident came in 1969 when he was accused of exposing himself while performing on stage.
This incident caused the group, and especially Morrison, to receive a lot of criticism not to mention Morrison a court date due to obscenity charges, but he and the group took the setback in stride.
Morrison became known as the Lizard King to his fans, which was an alter ego created by Morrison from a mythic figure. Because of his many controversial acts, the Doors became known as an entertaining but rebellious band.
Morrison’s behavior became more and more unpredictable and erratic but despite his drug abuse and later alcoholism, the group still performed and recorded music together.
The group recorded one of their most prolific albums, L.A. Woman, which was noted as the group going back to their blues and jazz influences, and released two hits, “Love Her Madly” and “Riders of the Storm. After their last album, Morrison took a break and moved to Paris but he would not return to the States.
He was found dead in his Paris apartment of an apparent heart attack. Rumors surfaced for years that Morrison had faked his death to get away from the pressures of his career but his girlfriend later admitted that she injected him with some heroin that caused Morrison to have an overdose.
The remaining members continued performing never replacing Morrison and preserving the group’s legacy. The Doors’ legacy and popularity has continued throughout time and Morrison’s untimely and mysterious death propelled him to legendary status. The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
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