Formed in Los Angeles, 1965, by vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, The Doors would go on to become one the era’s most iconic rock bands. Undoubtedly, their focal point was Morrison, a mysterious poet, who quickly became one of the heroes of the countercultural movement. Then and now, he has been ascribed a demi-god-like stature — a walking, talking embodiment of the rebellion.
As with most musical heroes, Morrison’s mythos as an artist was taken to another level when he tragically passed away in 1971. Visiting his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, in Paris, France, it is said that Morrison was in the process of cleaning himself up and attempting to get over his longstanding alcoholism and drug habits, ridding himself of the ensnaring social circle that had rendered him somewhat incapable of achieving his potential.
Found dead in the bathtub of Courson’s apartment, understandably, his death was a shock to everyone. The cause of death was listed as heart failure, although an autopsy was never performed, as they were not mandatory in French law. It was also reported by several people claiming to be eyewitnesses that the real cause of death was due to an accidental heroin overdose, although this has never been proven.
Because in life, and in death, Morrison was such a mythic being, this led to many conspiracy theories abounding about his death, which we will not wade into. Furthermore, his death came at a time when the hippie dream was starting to fall apart. The Manson Family had been on their notorious killing spree, and many of music’s icons had passed away. Leaving gaping wounds that the flower-power movement would never recover from.
Strangely, Morrison’s death came two years to the day after the death of Rolling Stones guitarist and founding member Brian Jones. The eerie coincidence didn’t end there either. It came roughly nine months after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and all three were 27 when they passed away. Furthermore, three years after Morrison’s passing, Courson also died of a heroin overdose, at the age of 27.
Given that the hippies were a superstitious lot, believing in karmic energy, ouija boards, daemons and all the rest, this eerie coincidence gave rise to a discussion that something more nefarious was at play, the chances of which are slim. Furthermore, this collection of loosely connected artists who passed away at the age of 27, wouldn’t actually be given the infamous moniker of the ’27 Club’ until after Kurt Cobain‘s suicide in 1994.
Morrison’s death obviously greatly affected his three bandmates. In the blink of an eye, they were left without a key part of their show and, more importantly, without a best friend. Understandably, it took its toll on their mental health.
The Door’s late keyboard maestro, Ray Manzarek, had a palpable tale to tell regarding Morrison’s passing. In an interview where a discussion of Morrison had of course sprung up, Manzarek told the interviewer of a strange, recurring dream he had experienced since that fateful day in 1971.
He remembered: “I have a recurring dream. Jim has just returned from France and has accomplished what he went there for in the first place – to rest, get clean, change his rock star lifestyle. We talk about where he’s been and what he’s been doing. I ask him if he’s been working on any new material, and just before he answers, I wake up. When I first told Robbie about it, he said, ‘Yeah, me too!’ He had had the same dream.”
What a strange coincidence. It seems as if the beliefs of the hippie movement, and maybe the lingering effects of copious amounts of LSD, fed into both Manzarek and Krieger experiencing the same dream. It’s almost as if the longing for their friend’s return culminated in the weird metaphysical phenomenon.
On the other hand, in the years following Morrison’s death, Manzarek would claim on numerous occasions that Morrison was very much alive and in hiding. For whatever reason, denial or in an effort to boost record sales, he repeatedly announced that he believed The Doors’ ‘Lizard King’ was still alive.
Krieger even told Classic Rock in 2020, “Ray became kind of the spokesman of The Doors, all the stuff he used to say about trying to make it like Jim wasn’t dead and stuff. It was kind of creepy, because he was obviously just doing it to try to keep the sales up or something. I think that’s what John was thinking. But after really talking about it with Ray, he just loved The Doors and he didn’t want people to forget. Maybe he went too far.”
Clearly, the remaining members of the Doors were totally invested in the band and didn’t want the fire to burn out. They even released three albums in the ’70s. 1978’s An American Prayer stands out as its music is set to recordings of Morrison reciting his poetry.
The dream was a strange occurrence. No one can doubt that. Was it chance, the culmination of a variety of factors, or Morrison beckoning the band to carry on from beyond the grave? We’ll let you decide. Either way, Morrison lives on through his art, and will continue to do so as long as music is consumed.
Listen to An American Prayer, below.