Jim Morrison is an iconic American figure; a poster child for both the dangers and the dark poetry of the 1960s and 1970s artistic scene in the United States. Best known for his role as the lead singer for the rock group The Doors, Morrison died at age 27 of a drug overdose. Conspiracy theories have long held that Morrison’s death was a sham, and that he is biding his time before making a triumphant comeback.
The child of a naval officer, Jim Morrison spent much of his childhood moving from place to place with his family. Born in Florida, he attended schools in California and Virginia, as well as in his native Florida. After graduating high school and briefly attending Florida State University, Morrison received a bachelor’s degree in film from UCLA. He became a well-known part of the Venice Beach scene, and produced several short films as a student.
Morrison, a lifelong poet and musician, began The Doors in 1965, shortly after graduating from college. Along with fellow UCLA grad Ray Manzarek and two additional members, the group began performing in the local LA scene. Their innovative sound and poetic lyrics hit the music world like a wildfire, and within two years their songs were at the top of the US music charts.
The film background of Jim Morrison was an integral part of the band’s style. Nearly 20 years before MTV and the rise of music videos, The Doors released conceptual films with their music, using shooting styles that would become popular with music videos far in the future.
The Doors spent the late 1960s with success after success. Their most popular songs, “Light My Fire,” “Break on Through,” and “People Are Strange,” are often pointed to as prime examples of the music culture of the thriving US scene during that time. Yet Morrison was already showing devastating tendencies toward alcoholism and drug use, reportedly almost never being seen without a drink. He began to show up late and drunk for performances, famously trying to start a riot at a Florida concert in 1969, for which a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Morrison was a long-time poet, and in 1969 began releasing his work publicly. He had strong friendships within the beat poet community, and his own work is a mixed of beat poetry rhythm and his trademark lyrical and imagery-filled language. His books of poetry were self-released, but after his death were re-released on the open market and have remained popular ever since.
The death of Jim Morrison is an event shrouded in considerable mystery and contradiction, which has lead to no end of speculation regarding his demise. In 1971, Morrison was living in Paris, unfortunately sinking even deeper into his alcohol and drug addiction. On 3 July 1971, his longtime girlfriend, Pamela Courson, found him dead in their Paris apartment bathroom. Courson stated that Morrison overdosed by snorting heroin under the impression that it was cocaine. Questions about Courson’s role and the lack of a formal autopsy have fueled the speculation that Morrison may have been murdered, or may have faked his own death to escape from fame.
The legacy left by Jim Morrison is a mixed bag of uncertainty. In the pulse-pounding, chaotic music of The Doors, glimpses of artistic genius shine through the drug-influenced haze. In many ways, Jim Morrison is the poster child of the late 1960s: young, brilliant, and very disturbed. His constant struggle with addiction and subsequent death at age 27 robbed the world of an important poet and voice.