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The 27 Club: Jim Morrison
Maybe it’s the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, which often goes hand-in-hand with drugs and alcohol. Or maybe it’s a curse. But the fact is this—a disproportionate number of musicians die young, and an eerily high number of those die at 27. Among their numbers? Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison
Today, we’re taking a closer look at another 27 Club casualty: Jim Morrison. You can also check out last week’s profile on Janis Joplin.
The Rise and Fall.
As the frontman for The Doors, Jim Morrison helped put his band on the map with an intensely charismatic stage persona. However, delivering such chart hits as “Hello, I Love You,” “Light My Fire,” “Touch Me,” and “People Are Strange” came at a price. Morrison became the first musician to be arrested on stage in 1967, when he was caught making out with a fan in the backstage bathroom and refused to leave. Angered by the incident, he unleashed a vitriol-laced rant at the local law enforcement while onstage that night. Morrison was arrested for inciting a riot, and public indecency. The charge was later dropped due to lack of evidence.
On March 1, 1969 at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove, Florida, Morrison gave an erratic performance that some call the unraveling of The Doors. Drunk and late to the gig, he alternately praised and cursed the audience, encouraging everyone to get naked. A few days later, a warrant was issued for Morrison’s arrest, alleging that he had exposed his penis on stage and simulated oral sex. He died before the matter was legally resolved.
On March 13, 1971, Morrison took a leave of absence from the band, moving to Paris to be with long-time girlfriend, Pamela Courson. Despite a few months of relative bliss, Morrison died of an apparent heroin overdose on July 3, 1971. He was 27 years and 207 days old.
Morrison is entombed at the Père Lachaise cemetery. Due to overzealous fans and numerous incidents of vandalism, there is near-constant security detail.
Where Would He Be Now?
The Doors’ influence stretches from the blustery storytelling of Echo & The Bunnymen, to the bluesy stomp of The Black Keys, to isolation of early Joy Division. Given The Doors’ remarkable ability to be so many different things to so many people, the music industry would have undergone a mass consolidation. Will Sergeant would have become the sixth member of The Cure, and Ian Curtis would have never formed Joy Division—his eventual path leading him back to school and into a career studying epilepsy and emotional disorders. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney would have eventually given up the bar/small club tour circuit to open their own blues-themed bar. It would have done stunningly well.
Gone, But Not Forgotten.
Wayne’s World 2 featured Jim Morrison as a guide to the spirit world, helping Wayne and Garth throw an epic, Woodstock-like festival. His helper was a “weird naked Indian dude”—perhaps a node to a childhood incident where Morrison saw a Native American family killed in a car accident (or so the story goes).
In 1991, Val Kilmer portrayed the Morrison in the biopic, The Doors.
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