Taking the wheel of the TIMH van (always rockin') to remember an important, albeit somber date in the annals of rock and roll history. Today marks the anniversary of the death of one of the more talented and troubled frontmen of all-time - Jim Morrison left the world as we know it on this day in 1971.
James Douglas Morrison is no stranger to 11W, his life and art previously documented in earlier TIMH entries celebrating (via KBonay) his birthday and life, as well as (via Ludwig Yards) his creative genius. With that, I'll focus not necessarily on the end, my friends, but rather a celebration of a legend finally found and still appreciated to this day.
Let's reset our timeline to 1991, early March. Yours truly is wrapping up Gas Turbine Technician (mechanical) 'A' (apprenticeship) training in Great Lakes, Illinois. I'm completing final hot plant (live training environment designed akin to the same enginerooms found in surface warships powered by turbine propulsion). I'll report to the Atlantic Fleet in just over a month, save a week's leave to road trip to Pennsylvania (en route to Norfolk, Va) to visit family and friends. But not before I take in a movie one Friday night, and discover The Doors and Mr. Mojo Risin. Is everybody in?
I'll spare the film details, as I'm sure most are familiar with director Oliver Stone's bloated "biopic" (a few band biographies published in the years after helped clarify true history). But the viewing was instrumental to me in connecting (finally) with one of the true great bands in RnR history - they burned bright, brief. I knew of The Doors, but they were before my time, and until that point I really didn't consider much music before my birth until adulthood. There was plenty of music to grow up with as a kid of 70's and 80's - some good, some not. But I'd reached at point in my life where worlds were about to open - on the seven seas, and my personal timeline of classic rock.
I had quickly come up to speed with the legends - Stones, Beatles, Zeppelin, the Who, an extensive British Invasion awareness (stemmed from my mother), but I hadn't latched onto an American rock band from the 60's save Creedence Clearwater Revival (more on them here, via the great Whoa Nellie). I have several older cousins I was close with on both sides of the family who helped shape some musical interests along the way. My older cousin Kathy was my first memory of the Doors and Jim Morrison - she had a poster of the Lizard King along with probably every album on vinyl. But I was immersed in the music of my time (save disco, and most new wave), I didn't get into anything of the 60's for the most part - especially some weird beard dude (re: doped out hippie head case - likely my first opinion of Morrison). Yet somehow, years later, a couple of my buddies in training convinced me to go and check this flick out, of the mostly unknown (to me) rock band with that crazy lead singer who did too much dope.
The perception changed - not after seeing, but rather hearing The Doors - I got it, I got the music. It was the best way to understand the man, and the songs resonated. Everyone here knows the legend - the philosophical, sensitive poet torn between his artistic passion and tormented psyche. Morrison became the unwilling icon of a movement, and the fame coupled with drugs, alcohol, and ever-increasing erratic behavior ultimately led to his premature demise. I hadn't heard anything like what Morrison and company served up. The lyrics were smart, deep, emotional. Pretty sure I bought the film's soundtrack, and just about every Doors tape (as in cassette) I could find prior to hitting the fleet. I haven't watched that movie in some time now, not even sure I could watch it sober. But with the various sources of music I have available to me I probably don't go a month or so without listening to the Doors and Morrison. It took almost 20 years after his passing for me to get it, and I'm still listening nearly 30 years after that.
His death is also known, his passing determined as heart failure (or a heroin overdose, no official autopsy was performed), found by girlfriend Pamela Courson in the bathtub of the apartment they shared at the time. In the span of nine months, the world of rock music had lost Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and now Morrison. It was the end of era, the loss of one of counter-culture's last voices. Jim Morrison was 27 years old.
The music lives, and this is The End...