Jim Morrison Biography
Jim Morrison was born on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida to George and Clara Morrison. Jim had two siblings, Anne, born in 1947 and Andrew, born in 1948. Because Jim’s father was an Admiral in the Navy, the family moved around alot durning Jim’s childhood.
In 1947, when Jim was 4 years old, he witnessed a car accident involving American Indians. He claimed that there were bodies scattered around, and a spirit of one jumped in to his soul. He talks about it on Dawn’s Highway on the American Prayer CD, which was taken from an interview…..He also sang of it in the song Peace Frog from the Morrison Hotel CD.
Jim was said to have an IQ of 149 and had a verocious appetite for reading. He studied Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Rimbaud as well as Jack Keruac and Allen Ginsberg. He seemed very interested in testing people and had a fascination with crowd manipulation. He also had a fascination with Elvis and would demand people be quiet when Elvis came on the radio. Jim would start telling jokes, to no one, while riding the bus, making people feel very uncomfortable.
He graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria Virginia, and then moved in with his grandparents in Clearwater Florida. He attended classes at St. Petersburg Junior College and in 1962 transferred to Florida State University. He did quite a bit of hitchiking during this time. Jim was arrested drunk while attending FSU on September 28, 1963. He did quite a bit of drinking while living with his grandparents, against their wishes, again just testing people.
In 1964 he transferred to UCLA’s film school, and graduated in 1965. Ray Manzarek was in his class as well and they knew each other. Possibly influenced by the beat poets and writers, Jim adopted that lifestyle in Venice, actually living on a rooftop at somepoint. He had no car and other than his books, notebooks and a few clothes, essentially no personal belongings. Jim had told his friends at UCLA that he was moving to New York after graduating, so Ray was surprised to see Jim walking on the Venice beach in the summer of ’65. Although Jim seemed to be interested in poetry and film, he surprised Ray by telling him he had been writing lyrics and heard songs in his head. After singing the lyrics to Moonlight Drive, Ray was hooked and The Doors were born.
At the time, Ray was in a band with his brothers, called Rick and the Ravens. Ray had met John Densmore in a meditation class and soon asked him to jam as their drummer. A demo was made of Summer’s almost gone, End of the night, Moonlight drive, Go Insane, My eyes have seen you, and Hello, I love you, all recorded at World Pacific Studios in 1965. It is very hard to recognize Jim as the singer on these demo songs. The style is nothing like The Doors would become, Jim’s voice is not the surreal tenor/barritone it would become.
Shortly after, Ray’s brothers decide to leave the band, not seeing the Morrison genius that Ray is seeing. John suggest they give his friend Robby Krieger a try as their new guitarist. As soon as Robby plugs in and does bottleneck slide, Jim is hooked “We’ll use that on every song!” Thus, the final formation of The Doors is complete.
Now, The Doors need a rehearsal place, and Ray comes up with a great idea. They can rent this really cool, long, one room beach house to rehearse in, and Ray and Dorothy can live there as well. At first, the idea didn’t go over too well with the other Doors, but eventually they accepted and actually enjoyed it. There, they could work on their songs as long as they wanted with no body to bother them.
It’s amazing how many times The Doors “almost” didn’t make it. After shopping around their demo and Columbia signing them, John Densmore stopped by Billy James’ office one day to see why nothing was happening. When he had the chance, he sneeked a peak at some papers on the desk to realize The Doors were on the “drop acts” list. Next, after several months of playing to an empty house at the London Fog, right as they were getting fired, Ronnie Haran stopped in to see them. She convinced the owners of The Whisky A Go-Go to hire them. So that gig goes really great for a while, The Doors are actually making some real money, but Jim never seems to be happy when things are too easy. One evening, after expanding his mind a bit too far, he decides to drop in the oedipus rex section of The End. The Doors are fired once again. But, not right before Jac Holzman, owner of Elektra Records, sees them and gives them a record deal. Fate must have been intervening to finally get The Doors signed and in the recording studio.
During the recording of their first album, The Doors, Jim must have thought the sessions were really hot. Late one night, after everyone had left the studio, he broke in and hosed the studio down with a fire extinguisher. He might have gotten away with it, had he not left his stuck shoe in the fence outside to be discovered the next morning. Over breakfast, he feigned innocence and the other Doors were never sure if he really didn’t remember or were just putting them on.
Before being signed to a record deal, Jim asked the rest of The Doors to try to come up with some songs, focusing on universal images; fire, water, earth, etc. It seems Robby Krieger was the only one to do his “homework” The first song Robby ever writes is “Light My Fire”. After The Doors first album is released on January 4, 1967, they decide to release “Break on Through” as the first single. It only reached #126 on the charts. Not exactly what they were hoping for. After “Break on Through” fizzles out, they decide to give Robby’s song a try. The only problem is, the song is 7 minutes long with the guitar and keyboard solos, which is, at that time, much too long to be released for a single. After some surgery in the studio, they cut out most of the solos and get the song down to about 3 minutes. The song is released in April of 1967, and it goes to #1 in the U.S. One year later, José Feliciano covers the song and it goes to #3 in the U.S.
“Light My Fire” puts The Doors on the national scene and it leads to a performance on the Ed Sullivan show. They perform “Light My Fire” and “People are Strange” on September 17, 1967. They had been asked to change the lyric in “Light My Fire” …”Girl, we couldn’t get much higher”, because at that time, you couldn’t say “higher” on televsion. The Doors agree to change the lyric, but of course, this is Jim Morrison. What else can he do, other than sing the original lyric? After the performance, they are told they will never play Sullivan again, to which Jim shrugs “We just did Sullivan”. While in New York, right after the Sullivan appearance, some very historical photos are taken of Jim. First he goes to Gloria Staver’s apartment for a photo session. She is in charge of 16 magazine and apparently fancies Jim. It seems they may have done more than just take pictures that night! The next day, Jim takes perhaps his most famous pictures, which are the Joel Brodsky shots, called “The Young Lion” photos. Jim is still wearing a bead necklace he borrowed from Gloria the night before.
The Doors 2nd album, “Strange Days” is released on September 25, 1967. The album consists mainly of songs written before the band is signed, songs that didn’t make it onto the first album. The Doors get to experiment more in the studio and enjoy using the studio as an instrument, getting some really interesting effects. The song “Strange Days” is the best example of this, with some great effects added to Jim’s vocals. The album hit #3 on the album charts, while “People are Strange” reaches #12 on the singles chart. At the same time, their debut album is still in the top 10. The second single released from “Strange Days” is “Love Me Two Times” and it reaches #25.