My earliest memory of The Doors was when my uncle use to put in this cassette into the player and play Roadhouse Blues. I never understood the words (later when I did, I felt that my uncle loves the song only because of the beer reference); it was the music and I and the beginning of a wonderful relationship with The Doors.
Today, December 8, 2011 would have been The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison’s 68th birthday. Although he passed away 40 years ago, his music lives on. His legacy still inspires awe in people few others can manage.
Jim Morrison was many things. And equally good at all of them. If ever a case has to be made to consider song lyrics as poetry, I would present his lyrics as evidence. Throughout the short career that The Doors enjoyed, we have been presented with lyric of all kinds: reflective, shocking, funny, sarcastic, and even narcissistic. But none of them have ever been short of poetry.
He was storyteller, a raconteur like no other, dramatic at times, subdued when needed.
One of my favourite lyrics by The Doors is the opening lines of one of their earliest songs Break On Through (To The Other Side).
You know the day destroys the night; the night divides the day.
If his songwriting was mysterious enough, folks who have read his poetry will know that it is much more enigmatic and strange. He wrote about himself, about sin and power, about lovers and lust, about the American lifestyle and self-doubt. A few of his poems can be found here.
His charisma on stage very few could match. Beatlemania happened at the same time, Jagger was turning on the heat with The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin and The Who were not far behind, and yet as these British acts conquered the world with their music, songwriting and showmanship, The Doors, from the US of A, were in a league of their own. As the documentary When You’re Strange points out that at times people came to The Doors’ concerts just to watch Morrison go wild on stage. This happened especially after Morrison was almost arrested when he attempted to spark a riot at a concert in Miami in 1969. (It was another issue altogether that the police issued a warrant against him for indecent exposure. Drummer John Densmore denies the exposure ever happened.) But his allure never died.
It must have been difficult being a member of The Doors, making good music but having just the singer of your band receiving all the attention. The way Robbie Krieger, John Densmore and Ray Manzarek ‘handled’ Jim Morrison, his attitude, personality, eccentricities and his alcohol and drug addiction was something that very few could have managed. And the music kept on coming too.
Morrison’s death was under mysterious circumstances. Till date, no one knows the actual events; it is believed to be the result of a drug overdose. The Doors continued without Morrison for two years before disbanding. Morrison was, fittingly, buried in the Poets’ Corner of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
You might say that Jim Morrison led the typical rockstar life. But I’d say he showed everyone how to be a rockstar. He has influenced many musicians till date, and will always continue to. He was free, he was one of the Riders On The Storm at Moonlight Drive, a Wild Child destined to Break On Through To The Other Side when The Crystal Ship would come, the one singing the Roadhouse Blues when The End would arrive.
And although Jimmy’s no more, we remember what he told us to do When The Music’s Over:
For seven years, I dwelt
in the loose palace of exile
playing strange games with the girls of the island
now, I have come again
to the land of the fair, and the strong, and the wise
brothers and sisters of the pale forest
children of night
who among you will run with the hunt?
Now night arrives with her purple legion
Retire now to your tents and to your dreams
Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth
I want to be ready.
Written by Runcil Rebello.