Jim Morrison – Looking into the mirror he held up to us.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Whatever else may be true about the life and times of Jim Morrison, formerly of the rock group known as “The Doors,” while he may have broken through and trampled on just about every boundary that was ever proposed in civil society, there can be no doubt that what he was able to accomplish in his short lifetime earned him a place in music history.

When he died forty years ago in Paris, France, there were a great many questions unanswered about the circumstances surrounding his demise, and any number of conspiracy theories and doubts voiced about whether or not he was actually dead, but one thing remained abundantly clear–we would never see his like again.

In the well-known biography of Morrison entitled, “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” authors Jerry Hopkins and Daniel Sugerman detail the astonishing breadth and depth of Jim’s thought process and much of the source material that fed his insatiable curiosity and his desperate desire to express his inner world, not primarily through his music, but rather as a poet and artist.

Reporting Jim’s interest in a concept from Nietzsche’s first book published in 1872, “The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music,” the authors reported that:

Jim identified with the long-suffering Dionysus who was “without any images, himself pure primordial pain and its primordial echoing.” The resolution was not in transcendence of one’s individual consciousness, but rather in an ecstatic dissolution of personal consciousness in “the primal nature of the universe.”–what Jim, and others, came to call the Universal Mind…Remembering the line from William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite.”

Joe Marquette / AP

Within these few references we can see that the story of Jim Morrison is not just that of the tragic rock legend dying young from excess and drugs, but someone who saw the temporal world as merely a brief stop along the way to the infinite. His recklessness and refusal to observe most limits in the temporal sense, gave his words a powerful push and his ideas a potent vehicle for holding up the mirror of the world to us all, to show us that what we see isn’t always what we get.

William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” can be found here:


Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music” here:


13 thoughts on “Jim Morrison – Looking into the mirror he held up to us.

    1. Dhiraj,
      Thank you so much for your link to your blog! It’s good to know there are others out there who understand the importance of perspective in reviewing or evaluating the environment and times of the artists of our day and not just looking at the surface behavior or chronological events. In the West, we tend to overlook the important sociocultural aspects of the times in which the artist lives when reviewing their work, but you have taken into consideration a wide range of factors and attempted to interpret Morrison’s importance through the lens of the culture and chaos of the late sixties.

      There are many important aspects of those times which clearly presented Jim Morrison with both opportunities and liabilities in expressing his art, but in spite of your elaborate analysis of those times, and as skillfully as you enumerate the challenges and describe the cultural zeitgeist of that era, I think you missed the most essential impetus of Morrison’s life almost entirely. He was completely and utterly irreverent, boorish, vulgar, and ignominious as a person, the quintessential iconoclast who, by coincidence, also happened to be an enormously talented performer and gifted artist.

      While there is much to admire about him as a musician and artist, Jim was so out of control and despicable as a person, that his true value as an artist will forever be overshadowed by his glaring deficits and his unfathomable madness. It is his infamy that propelled him to the celebrity status he holds even today.

      Thanks for stopping by….John H.

  1. Your reaction on my comment is pithy and grasps the issue correctly. I am thankful for your consideration and will think about the issue raised more deeply. Thanks a lot.

  2. Hallo,
    Ob du deutsch sprichst, oder lesen kannst, weiß ich nicht. Aber ich möchte dir sagen, dass Jim Morrison mein leben völlig verändert hat. Leider mehr zum negativen, als zum positiven. Von seinem Aussehen und Outfit war ich immer schon begeistert. Natürlich musste ich auch alle Drogen testen, von denen ich je gehört hatte, dass Jim sie genommen hat. Besonnders LSD.
    Hängen geblieben bin ich aber auf Heroin. Und das 23 Jahre lang.
    Heute bekomme ich Methadon und das ist für mich ein akzeptabler Mittelweg.
    Aber ich schweife ab,…
    Natürlich gebe ich Morrison nicht die Schuld, dass ich mein Leben nahezu weggeschmissen habe. Im Gegenteil, ich respektiere bez. bewundere ihn noch heute. Als er starb, war ich erst 9 Jahre alt, Nächste Woche werde ich 50 und ich kann mir nicht vorstellen, dass mein Leben ohne Jim so intensiv gewesen wäre……!!!!!
    OK,dass wollte ich nur sagen. wenn du Lust hast, mir zu schreiben,….:
    meine E – Mail : peterschmitz68@web.de
    Wünsche dir alles Gute… Peter

    1. Vielen Dank für Ihre Nachricht, und ich bin froh, dass du noch am Leben sind und versuchen, Ihr Leben besser. Ich war achtzehn, als Jim gestorben und war sehr traurig, dass er nicht nehmen besser für sich sorgen. Es gab viel zu Jim bewundern, aber seine Fehler waren sehr groß.

      Ich kann ziemlich gut Deutsch, da ich in Deutschland lebte für zwei Jahre. Es ist sehr schwer, in deutscher Sprache jetzt denken. Es war eine lange Zeit her, dass ich dort gelebt. (1977)

      Vielleicht werde ich irgendwann bald zu schreiben über mein Leben in Deutschland, und ich werde versuchen, für Sie übersetzen.

      Vielen Dank für Ihre Nachricht. Bestes, um Ihnen auch. John H.

  3. I always wondered why no one ever looked deeper into his out-of control ways..
    what made him like he was…today there would be a disease, a disorder, a pill named for him I think…
    maybe his madness was because he saw he was not to be here and he fought like crazy to stay
    and till he couldn’t fight the destination anymore…
    this was a good read….
    I can relate to his world…
    a good post John..Thanks

    1. What seems more likely to me, is that he somehow knew on some level that his time on earth would be brief, and he just decided to live without restraint for however long it was going to be.

      At a concert once, he actually announced to the audience:

      “I don’t know what’s going to happen, man…but I’m gonna have my kicks before the whole s–t house goes up in flames.”

      It seems likely that there was some sort of pathology that was, at least in part, responsible for his behaviors. He was clearly not working at the same level as most people, and while many of his efforts were laudable and enormously creative, he ultimately succumbed to his own self-induced demons, and we will probably never know for certain, what might have been at the root of his madness.

      I recommend his biography called, “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” by Jerry Hopkins and Daniel Sugerman for a fairly comprehensive account of many of his influences and tragic life circumstances.

      It was a tragic loss for the whole world that he could not find his way….John H.

      1. I will look for the book..thank you…
        he was very gifted….and though I might think “what a waste” to leave so early…I wonder how many understand his lesson to us…
        in the tradgy of death..there is always a need to look closer as to “what else”we didn’t see in the first look..he wore many masks…
        I think there was alot of pain there he didn’t know how to deal with…

      2. His early life was very unsettling. His father was an admiral in the US Navy and they moved around a lot. He eventually abandoned his family, and even before it was actually true, when anyone asked about his parents, he would reply that they were deceased. He was a troubled person to be sure, but whatever caused him to self-destruct, it seemed at the end of his life, he had started to turn around. I think his wish to do so simply came too late. He had already destroyed his body’s ability to sustain him.

        I think it’s interesting that even though this posting was something I posted really just as a simple tribute to an artist I admired, is the absolutely most popular posting I have posted to date. Even though I posted this in July of 2011, there have been 43 hits this past week, 220 hits this past month, and 1,600 since July 2011. The memory of his contributions to the world obviously is still haunting us all these years later…..John H.

  4. Jim was such a character, of great depth and many views, but what I find sad is the destruction wrought by drugs. I would have loved to have seen what he could have accomplished without drugs. That would have been something quite amazing I think.

    Great post! Thank you, and also a big thank you for those links. I am off to read them both now.

    Have a super weekend!

    1. Kezia,

      (I do so love that name…) The links are great for getting a bit of a perspective on where Jim was coming from and for appreciating the intellectual roots for much of his music and art.

      I really don’t think it was drugs so much that destroyed him, although they clearly took their toll. It seems to me that his reckless disregard for his own life was at the heart of his destruction, and his insatiable appetite for pushing the boundaries in nearly every category to the point of finding the absolute limit of his capacities was also key in leading to his demise. According to his biographers, Jim had just finally come out of his downward spiral with drugs and alcohol when the band released L.A. Woman. The album was a critical success and Jim had mended some of the riffs between himself and those around him, and headed to France for a well-earned vacation with Pamela, his long-suffering life partner of many years. By all accounts, he had come to terms with his obsessive behaviors and was hoping to recover in France, when his heart basically gave out on him from all the punishment he had put it through.

      It is a tragic conclusion to what would very likely have been an even greater artistic output had he survived. Jim basically considered himself an artist first, and I think that he was right about that. His fame lives on these many years later, but the legacy of self-destruction deprived all of us left behind of one of the most original artists of our time.

      Thanks for the comment and for being so nice to me….John H.

      1. Ahh! I confess I didn’t know that, much as I adore their music; more especially some of the music that wasn’t as popular. I love “Soft Parade,” and “Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine,” and from there I hadn’t much background information. I did once watch a small part of a film about him, but I wasn’t impressed. I think they portrayed him as too self-obsessed, but that may have been my mistake, as I loved his music so much I wasn’t prepared to listen to any negative thoughts about him. I was a lot younger then ^_^. I guess, though, the whole concept of what it is to be an artist is brought into debate and that, I feel, is a topic for another time, another post.

        For now, thank you for helping me to learn more about someone I already thought I knew, and for widening my education. I look forward to reading those links. As is my usual case, I have become sidetracked, but I intend to go read them as soon as I can ^_^.

        Thank you again. Always nice to chat to a friend. Be well!

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