Sure, it was just a matter of time until I wrote a blog about Jim Morrison and The Doors.
I’ve spent the past few weeks immersed in an audio CD biography on the singer entitled, Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend by Stephen Davis. An even more detailed account than the Danny Sugarman bio that I read as a 15-year-old, No One Hear Gets Out Alive, Davis’s book has again “lit my fire” for Morrison’s intense poetic ramblings—and led me to further grapple with the highs and lows that artists of any medium tend to experience.
It seems easy to dismiss Morrison as a narcissistic, drunk reprobate who wasted much of his potential and cut his own life short at the age of 27. He was out of control, undependable, and wildly unpredictable.
But that’s not the full story on Morrison either. The guy was simply brilliant. He read and absorbed Nietzsche at a young age along with volumes of poetry, and was influenced by European as well as American authors who inspired the sizable collection of his own verse and lyrics. By the age of 23 he had more depth in his observations of human nature than many people achieve across a lifetime.
But who knows what else could have been, for after the Doors hit it big Morrison went so deep into the bottle that he couldn’t find his way back out.
Why did he do this? Again, it’s too simplistic to categorize any human being as just being a selfish jerk or some other derogatory identity, for everyone is multi-faceted and a seasoned mixture of good, bad and everything in between. So what was the deal with this guy?
My personal take is that the dude suffered from chronic loneliness—and maybe even a chemical imbalance—and didn’t have the capacity to cope with it in a healthy fashion. He saw a world of 1960s America that was ripe with hypocrisy, violence, inequality, bureaucracy—and didn’t know how to find his suitable place. For whatever reason he was ill-equipped to maneuver the complexities and give-and-take of effective interpersonal relationships, so did what he could to escape.
Thus, Morrison followed the paths of other brilliant artists before him such as Van Gogh and Plath and Hemingway, as well as that of his contemporaries such as Joplin and Hendrix and the one that Kurt Cobain would take a generation later. His art lives on, but he wasn’t around very long to enjoy it or taste the spoils of success beyond a bottle of booze.
I have compassion for his suffering, whether he brought it upon himself or not.
I’m wondering if artists of such intensity are supposed to fit in, supposed to be “well-adjusted.” If someone is gifted with a special insight into the brokenness of this world, I would not expect them to just blow off what’s amiss and become just another pretender or imitator. Rather, I would expect such geniuses to suffer. It’s actually normal for a person who truly sees the insanity of this world, and become marginalized as a result, to be in constant pain. There are plenty of people in business, government, ministry and other powerful roles—“respected” individuals, for sure—whom I’d be less inclined to sit next to on an airplane than Jim Morrison.
Of course, that’s assuming that Morrison could have made it onto the plane. But I digress.