Doors, The

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Doors, The

Doors, The, hugely influential rock group of the 1960s. MEMBERSHIP: Jim Morrison, lead voc. (b. Melbourne, Fla., Dec. 8,1943; d. Paris, France, July 3, 1971); Ray Manzarek, kybd., voc. (b. Chicago, Feb. 12, 1935); Robby Krieger, gtr. (b. Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 1946); John Densmore, drm. (b. Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 1945).

Jim Morrison was born into a naval family and eventually enrolled in the theater arts department of UCLA in 1964, majoring in film. In 1965, he met classically trained keyboardist Ray Manzarek while attending film classes at UCLA The two quickly contacted jazz drummer John Densmore about forming a music group, and The Doors’ lineup was completed with the addition of Densmore’s acquaintance Robbie Krieger. After several months of rehearsal, The Doors were hired to play at L.A.’s Whiskey-A-Go-Go for four months. Recommended to Jac Holzman of Elektra Records by Love’s Arthur Lee, the group signed with the label and recorded their debut album in 1966. A stunning blend of rock and aural theater, The Doors was an instant success through widespread FM radio air-play, thus becoming one of the first rock albums popularized by the “alternative” media. The album con-tained Morrison’s psychosexual epic “The End” and sported a number of hard-driving rock songs such as “Break on Through,” “Take It as It Comes” and Krieger’s “Light My Fire.” Shortened from its original seven-minute length for release as a single, “Light My Fire” became a top hit in 1967 and broadened The Doors’ base of popularity beyond the underground. The album remained on the album charts for more than two years.

Exhibiting more sophisticated musical arrangements, Strange Days contained another extended Morrison piece, the 11-minute “When the Music’s Over,” the potent rock song “My Eyes Have Seen You,” and the haunting ballads “Strange Days” and “Unhappy Girl.” “People Are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times” became the hits from the album. Waiting for the Sun included the printed words to the epic Morrison poem “The Celebration of the Lizard,” and featured “Not to Touch the Earth,” Krieger’s puerile top hit “Hello, I Love You,” and the moderate hit “Unknown Soldier.” Morrison’s anarchistic “Five to One” bore stark contrast to the album’s otherwise shallow ballads.

In the meantime, given Morrison’s penchant for drama in performance, The Doors became an enormous concert attraction by the end of 1968. As audiences grew larger, Morrison increased the theatricality, but his performances became erratic in 1969, culminating in his arrest for indecent exposure in Miami that March. Many subsequent concerts turned into outrageous fiascos due to Morrison’s antics.

The Soft Parade was dominated by Krieger’s juvenile lyrics and produced one major hit with “Touch Me.” The Doors returned to rock with “Roadhouse Blues” and “You Make Me Real” from Morrison Hotel. Following the album’s release, The Doors completed a successful tour largely free of untoward incidents. L.A. Woman, The Doors’ final album with Jim Morrison, included the excellent title song and yielded two hits with “Love Her Madly” and “Riders on the Storm.”

In March 1971, a disillusioned and weary Jim Morrison, beset by legal problems and years of alcohol and drug abuse, moved to Paris, France, for rest and recuperation, intent on devoting himself to his poetry. He died under mysterious circumstances on July 3, 1971, and was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery without an autopsy. News of his death was withheld until after his burial, and speculation began that he died of a heroin overdose, although the cause of death was listed as a heart attack. The three remaining Doors persevered for two albums before disbanding at the end of 1972.

Ray Manzarek recorded two obscure albums for Mercury before forming Nite City with vocalist Noah James for one album on 20th Century. Manzarek subsequently produced the first four albums by the L.A. bandX. Robbie Krieger and John Densmore formed The Butts Band for two albums on Blue Thumb. Krieger later recorded the jazz-rock album Robbie Krieger and Friends before working with X, Iggy Pop, and Phillip Glass. In 1989, he recorded the all-instrumental album No Habla for the I.R.S. label and toured with Eric Burdon in 1990. Beginning in the late 1980s, Manzarek collaborated with poet Michael McClure, resulting in the poetry and music set Love Lion in 1993. By the mid-1990s Manzarek was involved in a variety of film projects.

In 1978, Robbie Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore edited over 20 hours of Jim Morrison’s recited poetry for An American Prayer, for which they provided the musical backdrop. The opening sequence to Francis Ford Coppola’s epic 1979 Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now used The Doors’ “The End.” Interest in the career of Jim Morrison and The Doors was fully revived in 1980 with the publication of longtime Doors associate Danny Sugerman’s Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive (with Jerry Hopkins) and the release of Greatest Hits, which stayed on the album charts for nearly two years. Volumes of Jim Morrison’s poetry were published in 1988 and 1990, and another surge of interest in the group took place with the release of the Oliver Stone movie The Doors in 1991.

One of the first groups to achieve “underground” popularity by means of extensive FM radio airplay, The Doors were one of the first rock groups to have an extended album cut edited down for release as a single (“Light My Fire”). An excellent improvisatory group, The Doors’ sound was grounded in the keyboard playing of Ray Manzarek, who became one of the few rock keyboardists to be recognized for his individual style. Fronted by vocalist Jim Morrison, who contributed powerful pieces of surreal poetry often preoccupied with sex and death, The Doors explored the dark and forbidding side of life years before heavy-metal and punk artists did. In acting out Morrison’s poetry with carefully orchestrated performances in concert, The Doors became perhaps the first rock group to consciously inject serious and often compelling theatrics into their act. Furthermore, like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, Morrison was able to use his musical success as a springboard for recognition as a literary poet. As Morrison’s latter-day performances turned into self-indulgent spectacle, he set the stage for the mythologizing of his persona that occurred after his unexpected death in 1971. The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.


THE DOORS: The Doors (1967); Strange Days (1967); Waiting for the Sun (1968); The Soft Parade (1969); Morrison Hotel (1970); Absolutely Live (1970); 13 (1970); LA. Woman (1971); Strange Days/L.A. Woman; Other Voices (1971); Weird Scenes inside the Gold Mine (1971); Full Circle (1972); Best (1973); An American Prayer (1978); Greatest Hits (1980/91); Alive She Cried (1983/84); Classics (1985); Best (1987); Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1987; recorded July 5, 1968); The Doors (music from the soundtrack; 1991); In Concert (1991); Live in Europe 1968 (1991); Vision (1991); Elektra (1995); The Doors Box Set (1997). THE BUTTS BAND : The Butts Band (1974); Hear and Now (1975); The Complete Recordings (1995). ROBBI E KRIEGER : Robbie Krieger and Friends (1977); World Pacific (1991); Door Jams (1989; recorded 1977–85); No Habla (1989); RKO Live (1995). RAY MANZA REK: The Golden Scarab (1973); The Whole Thing Started with Rock and Roll (1975); Carmina Burina (1983). NITE CITY: Nite City (1977). MICHAEL MCCLURE/RAY MANZAREK : Love Lion (1993).


J. Morrison, Wilderness: The Lost Writings off.M. (1988; 1989); J. Morrison, The American Night: The Writings of J. M. (1990); J. Densmore, Riders on the Storm: My Life with /. M. and The Doors (1990).


I M. Jahn, /. M. and The Doors (1969); J. Hopkins andD. Sugerman, No One Here Gets Out Alive (1980); D. Sugerman The Doors: An Illustrated History (1983); The Lord and the New Creatures (1970; 1987); J. Tobler and A. Doe, The Doors: In Their Own Words (1988; 1991); D. Dalton, Mr. Mojo Risin: J. M., The Last Holy Fool (1991); R Lisciandro, Morrison: A Feast of Friends (1991); J. Morrison, J. Riordan, J. Prochnicky, Break on Through: The Life and Death of j. M. (1991); J. Hopkins, The Lizard King: The Essential J. M. (1992); R. Clarke, The Doors: Dance on Fire (1993); R Lisciandro, /. M., An Hour of Magic (1996); J. M. Rocco (ed.), The Doors Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (1997); P. Butler, Angels Dance and Angels Die: The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison (1998).

—Brock Helander