Jim Morrison was the singer and songwriter of the 60’s psychedelic rock band The Doors. Known to many of his fans as ‘The Lizard King‘, Morrison was famous for his existential lyrics, religious native-american inclinations, rockstar persona, and frequent use of LSD and other hallucinogens.
Sounds typical 60’s, but the greatness of Morrison is that he was an original. His view of the world wasn’t pre-fabricated. His art and poetry wasn’t copied from somebody else’s. They were entirely his own…his perception of the world he also built on his own.
Legend has it that Morrison had an IQ of 149. His college professors remember him frequently reading classics like Nietzche and William Blake. He was also influenced by the 1940’s beatnik counterculture, which can be described as the precursors to the hippies. He was a nihilist at heart, which means he believed that nothing in the world has a real existence, even though he did eventually adopt certain spiritual beliefs such as the infinity of the universe and the existence of a soul.
He eventually graduated from film school in Los Angeles and dropped out of the map. They found him a couple of months later living in the rooftop of a building, doing LSD day in and day out. He was 23.
It wasn’t long until he was discovered by a musician called Ray Manzarek, who asked him to join his band. Thus, The Doors was born.
While on The Doors, Morrison sang about drugs, sex, and mind expansion. He also occassionally sang about the souls of dead indians crawling into his mind.
“Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind”
In the post-mortem album, An American Prayer, Morrison explains where these lyrics come from. When he was 4, his family and him were driving down the highway when they came upon an accident. There was blood everywhere and a couple of dead native-americans lying by the side of the road. He says that the way he saw it as an adult, was that the souls of those dead indians were running around, freaking out, and then jumped into his soul. And, he says, they have been there ever since.
Morrison also wrote a type of poetry that can be described as mystical, languid, and surreal.
Here is an example:
Enter again the sweet forest
Enter the hot dream
And Come With Us
Everything is Broken Up and Dances
This was an artist who was shaped not only by the experiences of his own life, but also by his unique mix of cultural and literary influences. He produced a decent amount of music and poetry until he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27, consumed by the whirlwind life of fame, drugs and rock and roll.
In my mind, he will always be one of the greats. Not because he can be easily understood, but precisely because he can’t. Is he singing about an acid trip, or about how he heard the words of the ancient native-american gods? Or both? Did he really believe in an afterlife, or was he truly an atheist?
We will never know. Jim Morrison is and will remain forever an enigma, and that’s what makes him–and his art–great.