Jim Morrison was a poet, filmmaker, songwriter, and the lead singer of The Doors.
In the universal mind
I was feeling fine.
I was turning keys
I was setting people free
I was doing alright.
Prudence is a rich, ugly, old maid courted by incapacity.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. William Blake
Jim Morrison was not prudent; he had the capacity to do and try any and everything. Few traveled the road of excess to the limit Jim did, he found his way to the palace of wisdom. His doors of perception were cleansed and he now lives in the infinite.
Jim Morrison didn’t just read these words, he lived them, completely. We are all richer from his travels. He did things most can only dream about. By Morrison living so freely, we live vicariously though him, safe behind our insecurities and fears.
Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger provided the perfect medium for Jim Morrison to share his journey with us. Without The Doors, Jim would have made the journey alone and unknown to us, settling to quietly plod through his trip. Fortunately, fate had different plans for Mr. Morrison, and his friends, and we are all that much richer for it. The Doors were the yang to the 60’s flower child yin, the “demon” Doors as John Densmore referred to them. However, Jim Morrison was more of an angel of freedom, flying on the sounds and moods that only The Doors could create. The Doors exploded on the music scene with the release of their debut album, “The Doors”, in January of 1967, and we are still seeing the effects of that explosion today.
James Douglas Morrison was born on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne Florida. Jim has a sister named Anne who was born in 1947, and a brother named Andrew who was born in 1948. Because Jim’s father was in the navy, the family moved often. The Morrison family lived in New Mexico when Jim was around 4 years old…
A Shaman is born:
“Me and my…ah…mother and father…and a grandmother and a grandfather…were driving through the desert, at dawn, and a truck load of Indian workers had either hit another car, or just maybe…I don’t know what happened…but there were Indians scattered all over the highway, bleeding to death. So the car pulls up and stops. That was my first reaction to death. I must have been about four… Man, all of a sudden there were red skins and they’re just lying all over the front of the road bleeding. So they pull the car up and they stop. And I’m just a kid so I just stay in the car with the women. I don’t know whether I’m crazy or what but I had the feeling when that happened, like I didn’t want to look back, like a child, like a flower whose head is just floating in the breeze man. But the reaction I get now thinking back… is that, possibly, the soul of one of these Indians, maybe several of them, just ran over and just jumped into my brain. I’m sitting there and I know somethings happening because I can dig the vibrations of the people around me, who I think are very heavy people because they’re my parents and grandparents and everythings real secure, y’know. And all of a sudden I just realised that…ah…they were just little, screaming creeps in the face of reality. And that they didn’t know what was happening anymore than I did. That was the first time I tasted fear.” Jim Morrison
“You know I was born here in this state – you know that? … Yeah, I was born right here in Melbourne, Florida in 1943. I think they call it ‘Cape Something’, I don’t know … yeah, but I, I left for a little while but I came back and I went to a … a little, uh, junior college in St. Petersburg, you know where that is? … Then I left there and I went up to a little uh … college in Tallahassee called ‘F.S.U.’ … Then I got smart … Then I went out to a beautiful state called California! Went out to a little city, name of Los Angeles” – Jim Morrison during the Miami concert, March 1, 1969
Jim had an IQ of 149 and enjoyed reading Mad Magazine while growing up. His drawings and sense of humor drew much inspiration from the comic book. As Jim got older, he became a voracious reader. From Nietzsche and Rimbaud, to Kerouac and Ginsberg, Jim was reading and being inspired by a multitude of sources. Still moving from town to town, the late 1950’s found the Morrison’s in Virgina. Books weren’t the only things influencing Jim during this time. One Tandy Martin became Jim’s girlfriend during his time at George Washington High School. Just like Jim did with his friends, he was constantly testing Tandy and putting her through it all. There seems to be a correlation between the “testing” Jim did on his friends and family, and the number of books he acquired. One of Jim’s favorite ways to show off his mind, was to tell a friend to pick any book off of his shelf, open it to any page and read. Jim would be able to state the book and the author, no small feat considering he had over 1000 books by the time he graduated high school. The Lizard King Was Here by Mark Opsasnick does a very thorough job on covering this period of Jim Morrison’s life.
Jim Morrison graduated from GWSH in 1961, however, he did not attend his graduation.
“I was the same height that I am now and I weighed 185 pounds. And I was going to college and I had this food ticket at the cafeteria and the cafeteria food is mainly all based on starch, you know, it’s cheap food, right? And so, I don’t know what it was, but in order … I don’t know, I just felt like I was … If you missed your meal, you just, you know, I just figured, well, I was getting screwed, right, if I missed a meal I just … blew it … So I’d get up at 6:30 every morning just to make breakfast, right? Eggs and grits and sausages and toast and milk. Then I’d go do a few classes and I’d make it in there for lunch: mashed potatoes, you know, every now and then, they’d put a little piece of meat in something, you know… Then I’d go to a few more classes and then I’d go to dinner: and it was more mashed potatoes and so about three months later I was 185 pounds and you know what? I felt so great, I felt like a tank, you know? I felt like a large mammal, a big beast. When I moved through the corridors or across the lawn, I just feel like I could knock anybody out of my way, you know. I was solid, man! It’s terrible to be thin and wispy because, you know, you could get knocked over by a strong wind or something, you know.” Excerpt from November 6, 1969 interview with Jim Morrison by Howard Smith.
After Jim had graduated from high school in the spring of 1961, he was sent south, to his grandparents in Clearwater, Florida. It was there he met Mary Werbelow. Mary was 17 when she spotted Jim on the beach and commented on his great legs. This is the summer of 1962 and Jim had finished his first college year at St. Petersburg Junior College. In the fall of ’62, Jim transferred to Florida State University and used to hitchhike back to Clearwater on the weekends to see Mary. When Jim went out to UCLA in 1964, Mary followed. After catching him with another woman, they broke up on the summer of 1965, around the same time that Jim and Ray began forming The Doors. Of note, in 1969, Jim told Mary the first three Doors albums were written about her.
In what may be his earliest film footage, here is Jim Morrison in a public relations film on Florida State University filmed in 1964.
It’s Florida and Jim Morrison is arrested for petty larceny for stealing a cop’s helmet, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and public drunkenness. No, this isn’t March 1st, 1969 at the Dinner Key Auditorium, Miami Florida. This is 5 and a half years earlier, on September 28, 1963 in Tallahassee Florida, while Morrison is attending FSU and on the way to a FSU game, having consumed a fair amount of wine.
The West is the best:
In January of 1964, Jim Morrison headed west to attend the University of California, Los Angeles. Morrison received his undergraduate degree at UCLA’s film school and the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965. In typical Morrison style, he didn’t attend the graduation ceremony, and his certificate was mailed to him later. While at UCLA, Jim Morrison met future Door keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, and even appeared in one of Manzarek’s student films, “Induction”. Morrison can briefly be seen a couple of times during the party scene. This film, and another Manzarek student film, “Evergreen”, can both be seen on The Doors Collection DVD. Morrison had also performed with Manzarek in Manzarek’s band, Rick & The Ravens at The Turkey Joint West, jumping on stage and screaming during the chorus of “Louie, Louie”.