At school, Jim Morrison’s teachers could see that he was a little different. He was a notable bookworm and his senior year English teacher once recalled: “Jim read as much and probably more than any student in the 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.”
Such was Morrison’s imagination, the teacher “suspected he was making them up, as they were English books on 16th and 17th-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.”
In 1964, Morrison moved to California to attend UCLA, where he enrolled at the film school within the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts. During his time here, he began to experiment with drugs, and his experiences with LSD began to rub off on his poetry and songwriting. By the summer of 1965, he had left university, and one day, he bumped into Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach in a chance meeting that led to the formation of The Doors just a couple of months later.
The Doors struggled for a couple of years before rising to stardom in 1967 with their eponymous debut album. By the time they released their follow up LP, Strange Days, later on, that same year, the group were a household name known across the country. Over the late 1960s, Morrison became notorious for his increasingly reckless behaviour. He would often turn up to live shows late and usually too drunk to perform.
Famously, Morrison allegedly exposed himself during a 1969 performance in Miami. This incident saw a premature end to the tour, and just over a year later, he had been convicted for indecent exposure and open profanity. It was at this point that Morrison decided to leave the country for Paris with his partner Pamela Courson. Sadly, Morrison died under opaque circumstances while in Paris and was buried without an autopsy, with the official cause of death deemed an overdose of heroin. Over the years since Morrison’s untimely death, his legacy has become increasingly mystical and heavily worshipped.
While Morrison remains one of the most iconic and mystical names in rock history, some have expressed their dissatisfaction with his legacy as an idol for young musicians. Thom Yorke of Radiohead, for instance, wasn’t in the least convinced by Morrison’s talent. He once said of the late Doors singer: “I’ve got this pathological disrespect for Jim Morrison and the whole myth that surrounds Jim Morrison, simply because it affects and has affected the people in bands and in the rock business, in that they think they have to act like fucking prats in order to live up to the legend.” Later in the interview, Yorke hammered one final nail in the coffin, stating, “Jim Morrison’s a fat, talentless bastard, and he’s dead.”
Whatever your thoughts on the talents of the enigmatic songwriter, he was undeniably a unique mind and quite the visionary. In many people’s opinions, Morrison’s music was so progressive that he virtually created the future of music during the late ‘60s, but on one occasion, he even predicted the future of music. In a 1969 interview with Rolling Stone, Morrison made a startlingly accurate prophecy: “A lot of people like Mozart were prodigies; they were writing brilliant works at very young ages,” he said, pondering the future of music.
He continued: “That’s probably what’s going to happen: some brilliant kid will come along and be popular. I can see a lone artist with a lot of tapes and electrical … like an extension of the Moog synthesiser — a keyboard with the complexity and richness of a whole orchestra, y’know? There’s somebody out there, working in a basement, just inventing a whole new musical form,” he added. “We’ll hear about it in a couple years. Whoever it is, though, I’d like him to be really popular, to play at large concerts, not just be on records — at Carnegie Hall, to play at dances.”
Terminology aside, Morrison hit the nail on the head with his prophecy. Some 15 years before Calvin Harris was born and nearly 20 years before Skrillex existed, Morrison could see where music was heading. He could foresee electronic elements of music playing and production becoming more advanced, allowing individuals to have a whole “orchestra” at their fingertips.
Watch part of Jim Morrison’s 1969 interview with Rolling Stone below.