Top 10 fun facts about Jim Morrison
Much has already been said about Jim Morrison: genius, erratic, scandalous, iconic frontmen of the Doors who died tragically at age 27 and instantly became a token of modern pop culture. His sulfurous reputation follows him everywhere he is talked about, which can conceal his tremendous talent as lyricist and poet.
During my teenage years, I was pretty much obsessed with Jim Morrison’s music, but I knew quite little about some crucial aspects surrounding his work or life. In this article, I have listed then interesting and fun facts about Jim Morrison.
I was careful to talk as much of his scandalous and provocative stances (because he considered them himself as anti-system stances) than to deeper aspects of his biography or work of art. Ray Manzarek, who cofounded the Doors with Morrison, used to say that his friend constituted the archetype of “hippie counterculture rebellion”.
Considered by many as a genius, Jim Morrison was deemed 47th Greatest Singer of All Time by the Rolling Stone’s magazine. An interesting fact about Jim Morrison is that contrary to many frontmen of popular rock bands, Morrison almost never played an instrument on stage.
Paul Rothchild, who was the producers of the Doors, famously said that “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 maniac. Turn into Hyde. »
1. Even though he was a known womanizer, he had a lifelong partner: Pamela Courson
Courson’s relationship with Jim Morrison lasted from their first meeting in 1965 until his death. It is still unknown how the two lovers met. They met while young, and spent the majority of their lives in a tumultuous and scandal-surrounded relation.
The couple was known for being both unfaithful, and their relationship was more of an open relationship than an exclusive couple. Rumors has it that Neil Young wrote several songs (including Cinnamon Girl) about Pamela Courson.
Even though the couple’s terrible arguments were of public authorities, the two remained passionately in love throughout Morrison’s life. He even spent his royalty check from The Doors album Strange Days to buy her the fashion boutique Themis.
Three years after Jim Morrison’s death, and also while she was 27 years-old, Pamela Courson died of a heroin overdose in LA, surrounded by two of her male friends. When she was cremated, the plaque commemorating her life read “Pamela Susan Morrison 1946–1974”, even though she was never married to Jim Morrison.
Roy Manzarek described Pamela as “Jim’s other half” and famously said, “I never knew another person who could so complement his bizarreness.”. Pamela was indeed the one encouraging Jim Morrison to view himself not only as a singer, but as a poet, and as such she always encouraged him to write. When Jim Morrison died in 1971, his will named Pamela Courson as the only heir to his considerable fortune.
2. His mysterious and tragic death in Paris made him a legend of the 27 club
If there is one thing that has been discussed at lengths about Jim Morrison, it is his death in 1971. Jim Morrison rented a flat with Pamela Courson in March 1971 in the Marais in the 4th Arrondissement, at 17-19 rue Beautreillis. Jim Morrison spent his last months in Paris with his lover Pamela Courson, shaving his beard and losing the weight he has been previously putting on. There was nothing he enjoyed more than walking for hours in Paris alone.
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He was found dead by his longtime lover Pamela Courson in his apartment bathtub on July 3,1971. He was 27 years old. His death was ruled a heart failure, but mystery still surround it to this day, because no autopsy was performed on his body since it is not mandatory in French Law.
Alongside Brian Jones (guitarist of The Rolling Stones), Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Whinehouse and Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison’s death made him part of the 27 Club: a club of famous rockstars who all mysteriously died at age 27.
Morrison is currently buried in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise (Père Lachaise Cemetery) in Paris, alongside many other famous stars. A flat stone was placed on the grave by Morrison’s father, which reads “true to his own spirits” in greek.
3. Before the summer he founded The Doors, he had been living on canned beans and LSD for several months
Few people know that Morrison attended UCLA film school and graduated with a bachelor degree in 1965. After his graduation, he led a hippie life in Venice Beach. At UCLA, he met one of his best friends, Dennis Jacobs, and after his graduation he lived on the rooftop of his friend’s building.
Roy Manzarek, when asked later about this period of Jim Morrison’s life, said that Jim had been living for several months on LSD and canned beans. Manzarek also met Jim Morrison at UCLA film school. Him and Jim quickly became friends and founded The Doors during the summer after their graduation in 1965. Guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore joined shortly after.
4. He was as much a singer as he was a poet and an intellectual
While many view Jim Morrison as a provocative rock star, he actually was an intellectual figure and very committed politically. He is indeed known for his categorical stance against Viet Nam war.
As a student of literature, I can assure you that most of Jim Morrison’s lyrics and poetry was inspired by a deep understanding of several poets and philosophers. He was especially drawn to French existentialism (think Jean-Paul Sartre). Other influences include Friedrich Nietzsche, Jack Kerouac, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Allen Ginsberg, Franz Kafka, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Molière, Jean Cocteau, Albert Camus.
One of his English teacher recalled that “Jim read as much and probably more than any student in class, but everything he read was so offbeat I had another teacher (who was going to the Library of Congress) check to see if the books Jim was reporting on actually existed. I suspected he was making them up, as they were English books on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century demonology. I’d never heard of them, but they existed, and I’m convinced from the paper he wrote that he read them, and the Library of Congress would’ve been the only source.”
While he attended UCLA, Jim Morrison took a class on French theorist and writer Antonin Artaud, which impressed him grandly.
6. Morrison was arrested in Tallahassee, Florida, after pulling a prank while drunk at a football game
This anecdote is pretty self-explanatory, so I will not add much; I am including it because I always found his mugshots quite amusing.
7. The name of the band was well thought by Jim Morrison
The name of the band comes from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which is another tribute to Jim Morrison’s impressive literary culture. The Doors is a reference to the doors of perception that can be unlocked by using drugs and especially psychedelic drugs. Aldous Huxley borrowed the title from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
8. His provocative personality is not a legend
Jim Morrison is remembered as being a particularly provocative star; and this is not only a legend or gossip!
The star was actually arrested on stage in 1967 during a show in New Haven, Connecticut; this event participated in creating the aura of rebellion that still surrounds Jim Morrison nowadays.
Another example is quite revelatory of Jim Morrison’s taste for provocation. The Doors were once set to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, which was a show running on Sunday evening that had brought Elvis Presley and the Beatles to popular attention in the United States. The hostman, Ed Sullivan, decided that the Doors would perform two songs for the show: “Light my fire” and “People are strange”. However, Sullivan insisted that The Doors had to change the lyrics of Light My Fire for the television viewers, because one verse contained a drug reference. Just before the show in the dressing room, the Doors promised the team that they would change this one verse. However, once on stage and to Ed Sullivan’s greatest surprise, the band sang the song with the original lyric. Ed Sullivan was furious and refused to shake hands with any musician or Jim Morrison; and he even sent a member of his team to inform the band that they would never again be allowed to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. To which Jim Morrison replied with a provocative smile: “Hey man. We just did the Sullivan Show!”
9. He was introduced to violence very early on in his life
When Jim Morrison was 4 years-old, he witnessed an event that changed forever his perception of life. In 1947, he witnessed a car accident in the desert. A truck was on the side on the road and Native American people were lying around, injured.
Jim Morrison said several times that this accident had been one of the things that had thought him the most during his life. However, his family always made it clear that they did not remember this accident. His father reduced the accident to a mere encounter with a crying child: “We went by several Indians. It did make an impression on him [the young James]. He always thought about that crying Indian.” Likewise, his sister stated that “He enjoyed telling that story and exaggerating it. He said he saw a dead Indian by the side of the road, and I don’t even know if that’s true.”
Violence was also present in Jim Morrison’s life as a child since his father, George Stephen Morrison, was at the head of a division for the United States during the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
10. His relationship with his family grew extremely difficult
As you may have understood from the previous quotes I talked to you about, Jim Morrison’s relationship with his family was extremely difficult. His parents used educational principles from the military to raise their children, especially discipline and the tradition of “dressing down”. This is an extremely violent psychological method that consists in belittling the children until they are convinced of their own failure.
It thus comes at no surprise that after his graduation from film school at UCLA, Jim Morrison cut all contact with his family. When the Doors started to top the charts, Morrison claimed that his parents and brothers and sisters were dead, or that he was an only child.
Jim Morrison’s father was always extremely critical about his son’s talent, and was never supportive of his choice to engage a career in music. An anecdote his particularly telling: one time, a friend of the family brought Jim Morrison’s first album with the Doors to Morrison’s father’s house. The family played the record and when he heard the music, his father immediately wrote him a letter in which he told him “to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction.”