Jul 3, 2011

Remembering Jim Morrison: "The Lizard King" Forty Years Later

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Jim Morrison. Looking back at Jim’s career with the Doors, it only lasted five years. In that period they released six studio albums & one live album. There is superior quality in the Doors library, throughout their music it’s hard to find any bad songs. There was alot of music put out in just five short years, but in retrospect it's not that many songs considering the impact they have had in the world. Those songs have remained popular for over forty years, meaning so much to five different generations.

To me first there are the Beatles, then there are the Doors. Jim Morrison inspired me to write poetry & songs in my teen years, which somehow probably led to me blogging as an adult. I never get tired of the Doors, their music, their words, their live performances, video, books or stories about them. There is no better music driving on a long trip & there is no better music that fits on the beach. If you have ever been to Los Angeles, especially  those certain Doors Hollywood spots, Venice & Santa Monica beaches, the Doors music is its soundtrack. When a New Yorker like myself,walked those same haunts the Doors made their history in, I really felt it.

The Doors masterpieces like “When the Music’s Over” “The End” “The Soft Parade” “Riders On the Storm” & “the Celebration of the Lizard” were like nothing ever heard in popular music & paved the way for the epics of the seventies. The Doors took rock & roll into another dimension; Sex, death, &a surreal imagery. They wanted to be that point between the known & the unknown, where in between there are the Doors.

At the front of the Doors was Jim Morrison, singer, rock star, sex symbol, writer, and poet. Jim was all these things & more in a short four year period. When he was on his game, he was the best, a handsome rock star with a powerful yet beautiful voice. His live performances were incredible; he brought poetry & theater to the music stage. No one put on a better live concert than Jim Morrison. But when he was bad, he was a mean drunk that could destroy everything in his path.

His image has grown through time, he will always be young in legend & his works will last forever. The rebellious image of rock & roll like James in Hollywood. His words were so powerful, even when broken down to just lines inside the verses. You can find amazing sentences, where one line can mean so much & the imagination open wide; “A feast of friends, alive she cried’/‘this is the strangest life I’ve ever know” / “No one here gets out alive” /”when all else fails we can whip the horses eyes & make them sleep & cry”. “He took a face from the ancient gallery & he walked on down the hall” & so many more.

Even the simple verse “the hostess is grinning” in the song Strange Days makes the listener realize the author is talking about something, sexy, evil & more mysterious than it appears on the surface.

As time went on, Jim was tired of being a rock star, tired of L.A. & the whole scene. He wanted to be known as a poet, he didn’t want to sing “Light My Fire” anymore.

After the recording of L.A. Woman in 1971, Jim packed it all up. He & his girlfriend Pamela went to Paris, to get away from it all. There they went to the cinema, drank in the bars & café’s, frequented a music club called the Rock & Roll Circus &was fascinated by the cemetery he would eventually be buried in.

By this point his health was deteriorating, he suffered from asthma, & was coughing up blood. The excessive drinking was of course also taking it’s toll. The alcohol combined with his asthma medication probably had a huge impact on his final days. There were stories of heroine addictions as well, maybe, maybe not.

On July 3rd, after he & Pamela attended a movie they returned home. Jim could not sleep; he had another severe coughing attack. He coughed up blood clots but did not want Pamela to call a doctor. Instead he sent her to bed & took a bath. Jim Morrison passed away that early morning in a bath tub in Paris. Pamela called friends at first to come over, then later a doctor was called but no statement made to the police. The doctor signed a death certificate that stated the cause of death was heart failure.
No autopsy was done, no one ever found the doctor who signed the death certificate, & no one besides Pamela in the Doors circle ever saw the body. Pamela bought the most inexpensive coffin available at the cemetery & on July 7th Jim Morrison was buried in a sealed coffin. Only she & a handful of friends were in attendance at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where Jim had wished to be buried, near artists & writers like Oscar Wilde, Vincenzo Bellini, Sarah Bernhardt, Frédéric Chopin, Gioacchino Rossini, Edith Pilaf & others.

The mystery of Jim's death will forever be questioned. Did he really die? Was Pamela to blame? Did he have a heart attack? Did he die of an overdose? Did he die from a variety of illness?

Pamela returned to L.A. obsessed about talking of Jim's death although she could not remember any details. She became addicted to heroine, was very unstable & slept around quite often. Three years later Pamela died of an overdose.

In April 1974 a quiet ceremony was held for Jim & Pamela as Ray Manzarek played the organ. Jim had originally left his will to Pamela, which included 1/4 of the Doors music rights, some land & an oil field. Through the years lawsuits followed & today it is believed the two families split the fortune.

Jim Morrison will forever be a rock icon, larger than life. His words & the Doors music has brought something special & identifiable to millions of people.

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