Not all music in the late 1960's that made a significant contribution to rock history was directly associated, or concerned with political or social protest. By the late 1960's the darker side of rock and roll slithered out of the shadows as bands became increasingly concerned with expressing their dissatisfaction with mainstream culture, restrictive middle-class values, the loss of individual identity, and embarked on a rebellious search for freedom.
Less influenced by music of the time, the Doors fused elements of early blues and jazz to create their unique brand of moody, psychedelic, blues based acid rock. Although trained in jazz, guitarist Robbie Krieger's (1946) undulating solos smoldered to firmly establish the band's commitment to the blues while drummer John Densmore (1944) provided the solid, often militant beat. The majority of the lyrical content, penned by lead singer Jim Morrison (1943-1971), was also less influenced by current events and drew inspiration from the 1950's beat writers like Allan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and classic literature.
Morrison, who sang as often as he seemed to be giving orders, was responsible for the bands erotic mystique, belting out lyrics that were poetically surrealistic and above all dripping with sexuality. Despite his middle class upbringing, Morrison, the son of a naval officer, exhibited a propensity for totally unpredictable, erratic and rebellious behavior throughout his life, which he intuitively incorporated into his razor-edged persona.
The singer's now legendary theatrical stage antics often consisted of lustful writhing around on the floor of the stage in skintight black leather pants, which made Elvis Presley seem more like a boy scout. And while Mick Jagger simply wanted to spend the night together, Jim Morrison wanted to love you madly, love you two times, and light your fire. Despite the lead singer's powerful presence, it was the dominance of electric organ that became the Doors' musical trademark and stands as a primary innovation in late 1960's rock. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek (1935) rhythmically punctuated Morrison's vocals with amazing precision by creating sounds ranging from eerie to circus-like, often controlling the mood of each song by musically translating the rich lyrical imagery.
Although all four members of the Doors made significant musical contributions to the band, it was the creative chemistry between Manzarek and Morrison that served as the backbone of the group. While attending film school at UCLA, the two friends decided to form a band adding Krieger and Densmore to the line up in 1965.
They took their name from the Aldous Huxley's novel, "The Doors of Perception", a story that deals with drug related experiences. Within two years the band had released their self-titled debut, "The Doors". The album featured the song "Break on Through (To the Other Side)", which accurately reflected the conceptual intentions of the Door's music. Over the next few years the Doors continued to release a number of successful albums. Although much of their music was dark and brooding, the Doors were also capable of composing more assessable pop music with songs like "Light My Fire", "People Are Strange", "Hello, I Love You", and "Touch Me", all of which made their way into the top 20.
But while the band's music sustained the interest of fans, Morrison's heavy drug use and severe alcoholism threatened their future. Even though he was hailed as an amazingly electrifying performer, his excessive substance abuse rendered him inconsistent. He was the first rock star to be arrested on stage at a concert in New Haven, Connecticut when he told the audience about being maced by a cop before the show. He was then arrested in 1969 for (allegedly) exposing himself on stage in Miami, Florida. Following the scandal, the singer retreated to Paris to escape public life and write poems.
Eventually making the French capital his permanent residence, the provocative rock icon was found dead of a drug induced heart attack in 1971. Jim Morrison's death added to the mythology of the Doors legend, and continues to fuel their aura of rock and roll mystery and inspiration.
Although the Doors released a total of seven albums during Morrison's lifetime, the band remained together for two years after his death to record an additional two albums. Several albums and live recordings have been released over the years as well as books of Morrison's poetry. Ray Manzarek has remained a prominent figure in rock and roll, having produced and written music for many well-known groups. Today, the three remaining members are considering a Doors reunion, however, Morrison will presumably stay put.
Page author: A.E.