Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
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Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Taken less than a week before his death (possibly from a heroin overdose, but no autopsy was ever performed; the official cause is listed as heart failure), Morrison is seen here smiling with his girlfriend Pamela Courson.
“I am the lizard king. I can do anything.” Praised as the wild child of rock and roll in the 1960s, Jim Morrison is a music legend who is best remembered as the lead singer of The Doors. He co-founded the band in 1965 but didn’t find fame until two years later when the group released their first hit single “Light My Fire” from their debut album The Doors (1967). Settling into stardom over the next few years, The Doors released five more albums featuring hit singles like “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” “The End,” and “Hello, I Love You.”
Morrison’s musical dreams certainly came true, but The Lizard King’s wild personality and overnight fame took a toll on his health and well-being. Turning to alcohol to deal with his life in the spotlight, Morrison’s stardom and addiction are what led to his tragically early death at 27 years old on July 3, 1971. While the cause of his death remains unknown today since no autopsy was performed, there is no question about Morrison’s talents and his legacy as one of the greatest rockers of all time.
Life and Career
James Douglas Morrison was born on December 8, 1943, in Melbourne, Florida as the son of a World War II veteran in the United States Navy and his wife. With his father’s military career, Morrison moved around a lot and attended dozens of schools across the country. To cope with the ongoing change, he buried himself in poetry and literature, studying the works of William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Friedrich Nietzsche. He wrote his first poem in the fifth grade but, even then, he didn’t think he was good enough to make a career as a writer and kept his dreams to himself.
He graduated from George Washington High School in 1961 and set out for Florida where he enrolled at St. Petersburg College and then transferred to Florida State University in Tallahassee. He moved back to the West Coast and earned his film degree from the University of California, Los Angeles College of Fine Arts in 1965. By then, he still wasn’t sure about his future, which is how he ended up at Venice Beach where he often slept under the boardwalk and spent his days writing poetry and doing LSD.
Happily living a bohemian lifestyle, he ran into a former UCLA classmate named Ray Manzarek who encouraged Morrison to put his poetry to music. Sharing a passion for music, the two worked together and recruited guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore to form a new band known as The Doors. The group honed their talents on the Sunset Strip and opened for Van Morrison’s band at the Whisky a Go Go. Before long, they caught the attention of Elektra Records and signed a recording contract in 1967.
The Doors’ first single, “Light My Fire,” spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album enjoyed similar success and showcased Morrison’s talents on singles like “Break on Through” and “The End.” The band cashed in on their growing success and released their second, third, and fourth albums in quick succession—Strange Days (1967), Waiting for the Sun (1968), and The Soft Parade (1969).
While the albums were hits, Morrison’s life behind the scenes spiraled out of control as he turned to alcohol to cope with his fame. He started showing up to recording sessions drunk and was frequently late to live performances as The Doors producer Paul Rothchild later said, “Jim really was two very distinct and different people. A Jekyll and Hyde. When he was sober, he was Jekyll, the most erudite, balanced, friendly kind of guy… He was Mr. America. When he would start to drink, he’d be okay at first, then, suddenly, he would turn into a manic. Turn into Hyde.”
Death and Legacy
Morrison’s excessive drinking drastically altered his appearance. In 1969, his behavior spiraled out of control and he was arrested after he attempted to start a riot at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium. The Doors’ popularity suffered as Morrison was sentenced to eight months in prison but remained free on a $50,000 bond while he appealed the conviction. Amid the trial, Morrison returned to the studio with The Doors to release their final album, LA Woman.
Morrison’s fate looked grim after his appeal was denied. Facing prison, he fled the country in March 1971 and settled down in Paris, France with his girlfriend. Over the next few weeks, he focused on rebuilding his life and pursued his interests in the arts before tragedy struck on July 3, 1971. The 27-yeard Morrison was found unconscious in the bathtub in his apartment. He was later pronounced dead, the cause of death unknown. He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France where artists and poets like Oscar Wilde met their final resting place.
In the two years following Morrison’s death, The Doors returned to the studio and released two more albums before they split up for good in 1973. Today, Morrison’s legacy lives on in his music and his writings that earned him a reputation as the embodiment of the hippie counterculture rebellion. For his fans, he was a devoted artist who took the stage as one of the most iconic and influential frontmen in the history of rock and roll. For Morrison himself, he was simply pursuing his greatest passion—to change the world. “If my poetry aims to achieve anything,” he once said, “it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.”