The Doors’ Jim Morrison: Rock Star or Poet?

Jim Morrison may have been a notorious rock star, but he was a poet at heart. The son of a minister, Jim was born in Oregon in 1946 and grew up in a family steeped in church music and the Bible. At the age of 15 he abandoned his Christian faith and became a hippie. The first music he heard was the blues, and after a few years of playing guitar by himself, he met another talented musician and started a band called The Doors in 1965.

Jim Morrison wasn’t just a rock star and poet; he also knew a little something about both and his death left a lasting legacy on music and poetry. He didn’t always follow his heart, but he was a true artist, and that’s why he left such an important mark on those who listened to him.

Jim Morrison was the ultimate outcast. He was born in a small town in Florida. Shortly after his birth, his father left his mother, who she then moved to Washington D.C. and married a man with two kids her own age. Jim Morrison was still a baby when his mother had his older brother, Steven, and younger sister, Renee.

Jim Morrison always wanted to be a writer. A year before his death in 1971, the Doors singer even said in an interview that he considered poetry, not music, to be the highest form of art. But rock ‘n’ roll fame got in the way. On Tuesday, his estate published The Collected Works of Jim Morrison, an anthology of his poems, diaries, film clips and song lyrics, about half of which are unpublished or edited material, mostly from the 30 or so notebooks kept in the estate’s vault. The release also includes an audiobook in which punk rock pioneer Patti Smith and others recite his experimental and abstract poems, while Morrison himself records material in the studio for a poetry album he never finished. word-image-2305 The Collected Works, which runs to nearly 600 pages, is an attempt to consolidate Morrison’s literary reputation by presenting him as an unconventional poet inspired by the Beatles’ generation. Critics have long debated the merits of Morrison’s poetry. Some have called his work amateurish or pretentious. It is unlikely that his work would have attracted so much attention without the popularity of the Doors, whose success was largely due to the compositions of guitarist Robbie Krieger and the contributions of keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore. Others have spoken of Morrison’s influence. Patti Smith, herself successfully combining musical and literary fame, has called him one of our great poets. He was much more than just a singer. He wrote, beginning with eternity. He was always writing, said Anne Morrison Shewning, Morrison’s younger sister and co-executor of Morrison’s estate. She worked on the project with Frank Licciandro, 78, a director and close friend of Morrison in the 1960s. Mrs. Scheuning says she wanted people to see him in all his glory. word-image-2306

Jim Morrison (far left) with his parents and siblings, including his sister Ann Morrison Shewning next to him, 1960.

Photo: George Morrison Family Partnership, L.P., Courson Family Enterprises, LLC. Morrison’s interest in writing began in his youth, when his military family moved every other year or so. He didn’t play an instrument – he and his sister took piano lessons for a year but gave up, said Shewning, 74, a retired teacher who lives near Santa Barbara. Instead, Morrison read Albert Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche, filling the pages of the main book with prose poems, short pieces, and other reflections. After studying in Florida, Morrison moved to Los Angeles to study film – another of his interests – and met Ray Manzarek, with whom he formed The Doors in 1965. (Manzarek died in 2013.) Initially, Morrison was not a natural performer: He stood with his back to the audience, as he did during the band’s rehearsals. That’s when he realized the public had something to do with it, Robbie Krieger says. When the band’s fame exploded in 1967 with the albums The Doors and Strange Days, the band used Morrison’s poems as material, even entire songs. One of his high school poems, Horse Latitudes, is on the album Strange Days, for example. word-image-2307

Handwritten pages from a notebook included in a new anthology of Morrison’s works.

Photo: George Morrison Family Partnership, L.P. and Courson Family Enterprises, LLC. However, the band began to experience creative difficulties due to Morrison’s increasing alcoholism. While working on the album Waiting for the Sun (1968), his The Celebration of the Lizard, an ambitious rock poem that fills one side of the record and appears in the Collected Works, failed. Morrison and his companions found the composition patchy, having not been chiseled to the stage like their earlier epics The End and When the Music’s Over. In 1969, Morrison tried to make room for his writing by taking the advice of the late poet Beat Michael McClure. He published poetry on his own and published in literary and music journals under the name James Douglas Morrison. He is working on films and plans to release a poetry album for the band’s label, Elektra Records. In 1970, Simon & Schuster provided Morrison with a treat by publishing a collection of his works Gentlemen and New Creatures. But he also had to deal with the legal ramifications of the allegations surrounding his Miami concert antics. Jim is tired of being a pop star, says Krieger. He felt that this detracted from his true desire to become a famous poet. word-image-2308

Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson at Muir Woods, California, 1967.

Photo: Bobby Klein. Doors Property, LLC. After the albums Morrison Hotel in 1970 and L.A. Woman in 1971, which were considered a return to form and fulfilled the band’s contract with Elektra, Morrison took a break from music and tried to cut down on drinking by moving to Paris with his girlfriend Pamela Courson. He died there on the 3rd. July 1971 at the age of 27 from heart failure. word-image-2309

A page in the new book contains the lyrics to the song Riders on the Storm.

Photo: George Morrison Family Partnership, L.P. and Courson Family Enterprises, LLC. Courson, to whom Morrison left everything in his will, returned to the United States with many of his notebooks. But when she too died of a heroin overdose in 1974, her family took over the Morrison estate. The Courson and Morrison families became involved in a legal battle over the property, but eventually came to a division. Schewning became a co-executor in 2009 and began going through Morrison’s papers. In the process, she came across a list entitled Plan for a Book, written in Morrison’s handwriting. There was no discussion about what we wanted the book to look like, says Jeff Jampol, executive director of The Doors and Jim Morrison. Jim told us. word-image-2310

When Mrs Shewning was going through Morrison’s notebooks, she came across a page marked Plan for the book.

Photo: The George Morrison Family Partnership, L.P./the Courson Family Enterprises, LLC. Licciandro, who had already collaborated with the Coursons on the publication of two posthumous collections of Morrison’s poetry, saw the potential for a larger project; he searched and collected material for the manuscript and helped locate and photocopy other notebooks outside the estate. (Maybe there’s another notebook from Paris). He has also created a kind of autobiographical poem, with lines from Morrison’s notebooks, some of which indicate regret and a desire to start over: Milton’s youth – will I have the chance to write my Paradise Lost, Morrison writes. Asked if the audience didn’t understand Morrison, Krieger said: Yeah, I guess so. But he added: He misunderstood himself.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think is Jim Morrison’s most enduring legacy? Join the discussion below. Email Neil Shah at neil.shah@wsj.com. Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8In the five years since his death, Jim Morrison has become a cultural icon, a pop-culture icon and a posthumous one at that, his persona as a fictional character becoming as cherished as any of his beautifully crafted songs. It is a testament, then, to his enduring relevance to our culture that, even after death, he can still inspire and inform debate.. Read more about jim morrison poems to pam and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the doors in the Hall of Fame?

Jim Morrison is one of the most infamous figures in rock and roll history. He was the lead singer of The Doors, an iconic band that started in Venice Beach, CA in 1965, and had a short six-year career, though still a lot of live performances. Morrison died in Paris in 1971 after a show, and is remembered for his iconic look, his poetic lyrics, and for his untimely death at age 27. In 1968, a group of students in a New York City hall became the first to hear Jim Morrison speak. Since then, the Doors have had a meteoric rise from the garage rock band they were in high school to international superstars, and in recent years, inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While Morrison’s influence is undeniable, the truth is that the doors are more of a “What They Said” than a “What They Did”, and more than anything, a “What They Are” than a “What They Are Doing” — but the last of the Doors’ two remaining members, Ray Manzarek, is still keeping the band alive.

Who influenced the doors?

The Doors, The Doors, The Doors. Jim Morrison is often referred to as the Godfather of the Doors. He was the singer of the band, the songwriter, lyricist, and the one who gleefully brought the music to life. The Doors are one of the most widely recognized rock bands in the history of music. In the 1960s, they were widely popular for their psychedelic rock sound. Since then, they have had a huge following, and their music and style has reached to a popular point in American culture that is still popular today. The influence of the band on the world of music is still very much there.

Who was the doors bass player?

Jim Morrison was a cultural icon who influenced many generations of musicians, and remains a major influence on modern-day rock music. He was a vocalist for the iconic rock band The Doors, and his influence continues to this day. The Doors’ most popular song “Light My Fire” has been covered by artists from Led Zeppelin, The Verve, and more, as well as several tribute bands. Jim Morrison’s legend is as enduring as the legendary band he fronted. But who was the Doors’ original bassist, Ray Manzarek? For many, only a few words of his name is enough to conjure up images of Jim Morrison in leather pants, reciting poetry at a downtown club, or being “caught in the rain” in a car with the world’s most famous woman.

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