Comment permalink

Tell Me Why I should Respect The Doors

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll Martyrdom

The Doors.  Some critics called them one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Other critics thought they were nothing more than a bloated blues band.  Hard to say which critics I agree with.  Never a fan, but mildly appreciative of their contribution, I remember feeling rather annoyed at all the fuss over Jim Morrison's death.

I managed to experiment with drugs and alcohol in the mid-seventies without offing myself, so I always felt that Morrison's death was a personal tragedy, but hardly a musical or an intelligent one.  When Mark Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, I felt a deep sense of loss- for peace, for his family, and in a selfish way, for lovers of great music.  The Beatles were an iconic band and John Lennon was a remarkable, talented, and daring individual. 

John Lennon's death didn't make him any greater.  He didn't achieve cult status through martyrdom.  He was already so successful, as a musician, as a songwriter, and as a visionary, that his death brought a feeling of great loss- our generation lost their voice for peace.  John Lennon's greatness was already defined before his death.  Jim Morrison became a cult figure because of his death.  There's a difference.

What if Jim Morrison had lived?  Would The Doors have continued to be as successful as their past years?  We know they were in their prime when Jim Morrison died, similar to Nirvana's success just before Kurt Cobain killed himself.  Why not just replace him with another singer and move on?

Actually, it was attempted, but 30 years after his death. When keyboardist Ray Manazek and guitarist Robby Krieger decided to bring the band together and tour in 2003, they were immediately sued by former Door's drummer, John Densmore.  His injunction forced them to change their name to The Doors of the 21st Century.  Then they were sued by former Police drummer, Stewart Copeland, for breach of contract. Then they were sued by Jim Morrison's parents for misapropriation of Jim's poetry and likeness.  The band changed their name to The Doors of the Twenty-First Century, added singer Ian Astbury, formerly of The Cult, and went on tour anyway. 

Their tour was well received; Ian Astbury seemed to channel Morrison, sparking one reviewer to write that the juxtapositioning of Morrison to Astbury "is so convincing that it provokes an audible gasp from the crowd." Their ability to re-create their original sound, and to successfully convince audiences and critics alike, proves an important point- The Doors was a rock and Roll band, with each member contributing to the the dynamic. The Doors was not just a Jim Morrrison star vehicle. 

Still, the story of Jim Morrison's rise and subsequent tragic fall is a compelling story. Is it possible that his parents and Robby Krieger, knowing this, want to retain that myth, and then, to what purpose? In the end it is the same old story- show me the money.  The legend of Jim Morrison must be carefully protected. Without his mythical status, people like myself may begin to think his greatest achievement was his untimely death.  Without that, he might be just another aging rocker, playing small clubs in New Jersey, and living off his royalties, or perhaps starring in a reality show. 

What are your thoughts?  Can you convince me that I've got this all wrong?  I offer you this challenge.  Prove to me why Jim Morrison should be considered one of the greatest rock and roll visionaries in the history of the genre.  Convince me to be as great a fan as you are.  Come on baby, light my fire.