Jim Morrison: from Boy to American Icon Essay

Paige Wallace Mr. Vaughn Advanced English II 27 February 2009 Jim Morrison: From Boy to American Icon Visualizing his theatrical stage persona, gangling brown hair, leather pants, beaded necklace, grungy t-shirt or no shirt at all takes one back to the self-destructive lifestyle of a psychedelic rock icon. As an American teenage prodigy in the late ‘60’s, Jim Morrison developed a reputation as one of the most charismatic front men in rock music history. Rock ‘N Roll’s future star, Jim Morrison was conceived by future Admiral George Stephen and Clara Clarke Morrison.

Born on December 8, 1943, Jim joined two siblings, Anne Robin and Andrew Lee as members of the Morrison family (Burgan 8). For three successive years while his father was away for work, Jim resided with his mother at his grandparent’s home in Clearwater, Florida. When Jim turned six years old, his father left for the Pacific to fly Hellcats from an aircraft carrier. The Morrison family moved to Los Altos in northern California, which was Jim’s fifth home in four years. The excessive relocations of the family were caused because of his father’s military career choice.

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The relocations affected Jim’s childhood by making it hard for him to make and keep friends in his life. As Jim’s education began, he was always a teacher’s favorite, which led to his election as fifth grade class president. The admiration of Jim as a student did not apply when it came to other extracurricular activities such as the Boy Scouts. While a part of the Boy Scouts, Jim was kicked out immediately for sassing the den mother (Hopkins and Sugerman 5-7). Right before his sophomore year of high school in 1958, Jim and his family moved once again, this time to Alexandria, Virginia, where he would receive his diploma.

During his educational process, Jim was rather intelligent, receiving outstanding grades throughout high school. Despite his intelligence, his rebelliousness contradicted Jim’s true character as a student. He once skipped class and used the excuse that he was having an operation on his brain (Burgan 11). His rebellions upheaval continued upon his high school graduation. Jim disappointed his parents terribly as he chose not to attend his graduation ceremony because he simply did not want to (Hopkins and Sugerman 22-23).

Jim’s adolescence was over, but was just the spark of his out of control lifestyle that lay before him. As Jim began his young adulthood, he enrolled at St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida. After completing a few courses there, he returned to his childhood lifestyle of constant moving as he enrolled at Florida State University in Tallahassee (Burgan 11). Jim’s unsureness of what to do with his life led him to transfer from school to school during his college years. When interviewed by Jerry Hopkins of Rolling Stone, Hopkins questioned Jim on how he decided to become a performer.

Jim replied, “I didn’t think about it. It was just there. I thought I was going to be a writer or a sociologist, maybe write plays” (Hopkins 54). After going to FSU for a short period, Jim moved back to California and began film classes at UCLA. This was where Jim would follow his fate and make his own future. During one of his classes, he met future band member, Ray Manzarek one day. Manzarek became infatuated with Morrison’s poetic ability after reading some of Jim’s poems. Manzarek would soon persuade the brilliant lyricist to join his band, known as Rick and the Ravens.

After playing together for a little while, the members of the band chose on a new name (Burgan 15). The band was captivated by William Blake’s poetry, which made them rename the band The Doors. They took the name because of the line, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite,” which came from one of Blake’s famous poems. The Doors consisted of lyricist and guitarist Jim Morrison, organist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore (“Jim Morrison 1”).

Before reaching stardom in 1966, the band performed in small night clubs across Los Angeles. The Doors would often play at the Whiskey a Go-Go (Burgan 15). As the band began to rise, Morrison started to experiment with LSD and other hard drugs (“Jim Morrison 1”). One night after The Doors performance at Whiskey a Go-Go, the club manager fired The Doors because of Jim’s outrageous behavior with illegal drugs and alcohol (Burgan 15). Later on in 1966, the uprising, hardcore band signed with Elektra Records under the management of Bill Siddons (“Jim Morrison 1”).

The Doors released their first album in January 1967 named The Doors after the band (Burgan 16). Subsequently, the band’s first hit single, “Light My Fire” reached number one on the rock charts. After their recent stardom to the public, The Doors appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night series that introduced different bands across the world. Before the performance, Sullivan asked The Doors to perform two specific songs, which were “Light My Fire” and “People are Strange. ” He also insisted that they change the lyrics of “Light My Fire” to be more appropriate for television.

As the band began to perform the song, Jim sung as originally written by the band. Jim’s reoccurring rebelliousness forced Sullivan to become furious, and decide to never request them to appear on the show again (“Jim Morrison 1”). During Morrison’s adulthood, The Doors, along with himself would reach the peak of their careers. Jim said, “We want the world and we want it now,” which allowed their fans to envision The Doors rapid popularity. The Doors had become the most popular rock band in the United States by the release of the band’s second album Strange Days.

The Doors then released their third LP “Waiting for the Sun” in 1968 and fourth LP “The Soft Parade” in 1969. “The Soft Parade” was the first album the band released in which they received recognition for their own work. This was due to previous albums being altered or containing songs not written by the members of the band (“Jim Morrison 1”). Succeeding Jim’s overwhelming popularity uproar, journalists noticed how Jim never mentioned his parents and asked him why he claimed that his family was dead when they were very much alive. Without any elaboration, Jim replied, “I just didn’t want to involve them” (Hopkins 58).

After the interview about his family with the press, something inside Jim sparked rage as he started showing up to studio time and concerts heavily intoxicated. No one knows if any of this was related, but the defiant Jim Morrison was back again and set full throttle. During a concert in Miami, Morrison exposed his body to the audience. After his indecent exposure, many Miami-area residents persuaded the local police force to issue a warrant for Morrison’s arrest. Jim took trial on August 12, 1970, and was sentenced to six months hard labor (“Jim Morrison 1”).

This was certainly not the last of Jim’s interaction with the law. Next, The Doors were banned from St. Louis and Honolulu because of the drunkenness charged filed against Jim (Hopkins 54). Afterwards, he was arrested twice at his own concerts for creating a disturbance (Burgan 20). Although his wild side appeared for a while, Jim took it down a notch as he started writing. In 1969, Jim self published two volumes of his own poetry, The Lords Notes on Vision and The New Creatures, which were the only volumes published during his lifetime (“Jim Morrison 1”).

Morrison’s famous poem “Lizard King,” contains his extraordinary words, “I am the Lizard King. I can do anything” (Burgan 23). Morrison’s words and thoughts in his work were just a glimpse of himself and his life. His post-rock life began in the early 1970’s after he realized the numerous times he was arrested during his performances. Jim finally decided to give up on The Doors, while the band would give up on him as well. Jim and his girlfriend, Pamela Courson moved to Paris, France in March of 1971 (Burgan 20).

There in the City of Lights, he became very depressed and planned to move back to the United States. He changed his young rock star appearance by growing a long beard to show his aging (“Jim Morrison 1”). On July 3, 1971, Pamela found Jim dead in their apartment bathtub. The French doctor examined Jim’s body and said he died of natural causes. Later Jim’s friends heard of his death, they searched for the doctor for confirmation, but he could not be found (Burgan 23). After his death, more of Jim’s work was published such as Wilderness in 1988 and The American Night in 1990.

Morrison was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in eastern Paris. Steve, Jim’s father, placed a flat stone on the grave site that says, “True to his own spirit” in a Greek inscription (“Jim Morrison 1”). An ordinary teenage boy turned psychedelic icon, Morrison’s accomplishments, all in all, will shape rock music history for eternity. Perhaps no other front man has formed hard rock music so much or for so many years to come. “There are things known, and there are things unknown. And in between are the doors” (“Jim Morrison 1”).


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