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Why did Jim Morrison lie about his parents being dead?

The story of Jim Morrison remains coated in both tragedy and mystery. On the one hand, the sweet music he made with The Doors was lightyears ahead of its time and would play a crucial role in shaping music’s future. While there are no question marks over his talent, his personal life, on the other hand, is soaked in irregularity and question marks remain over who Jim Morrison really was.

Morrison was a pioneer that never stopped thinking about what was going to be ‘the big next thing’, feverishly pushing against the idea of resting on his laurels. With that in mind, it remains a tragedy that the singer passed away aged just 27 in 1971. The Doors frontman’s cruel death prevented the chance for him to have had a career that no doubt would have the definition of trailblazing. Morrison died in Paris, and the site of his grave remains one of the most visited tourist attractions in the French capital. It’s a perfect summarisation of his semi-nomadic lifestyle and his refusal to be tied down to one place.

The frontman’s father, George Morrison, who passed away in 2008, was in the Navy, which meant that his childhood saw him move from state to state. Morrisson became accustomed to this never-ending journey and never settling down in one place for any significant length of time. Following his death, his family finally spoke up about his early years, a subject that the singer never touched upon and, at times, even pretended that his parents were no longer alive.

Morrison’s mother and father ran his house with immense discipline and handed out military-like punishment known as the “dressing down”. Once he got into UCLA in 1964, Morrison cut ties with most members of his family. When people asked about his background, rather than tell the truth and explain that he was estranged, Morrison claimed that his parents and siblings were dead.

This story wasn’t just a lie that he told to friends, Elektra Records even published that Morrison was an orphan as part of the materials distributed with The Doors’ self-titled debut album in 1967. His family had no idea he was even in a band, let alone that they were capturing hearts and minds all over America and beyond. 

Following the album’s release, a friend of the family spotted the debut album by The Doors and thought he recognised Jim on the cover. He then played the record for Morrison’s father and the family. After hearing the album, Morrison’s father was furious with his son’s life choice. He wrote him a letter telling him “to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction.”

In 2007, the Morrison family finally broke their silence on what it was like estranged from Jim and offered up their side of the story. George Morrison and Jim’s siblings, Andy and Anne appeared in Ben Fong-Torres’ memoir on the singer, The Doors by The Doors. “We look back on him with great delight,” they commented. 

“The fact that he’s dead is unfortunate but looking back on his life it’s a very pleasant thought,” George Morrison says in the book. “I had the feeling that he felt we’d just as soon not be associated with his career,” George Morrison says. “He knew I didn’t think rock music was the best goal for him. Maybe he was trying to protect us.” His sister, Anne, added: “He liked mystique, too. He didn’t want to be from somewhere.”

His brother, Andy Morrison, devastatingly recalled that his mother, Clara, who died in 2006, took him to a Doors concert in Washington, D.C., and they then asked if they could see Jim when they arrived at the show. However, Jim refused to meet with his mother, and then she drove home in tears.

Morrison’s relationship with his family was unconventional and fractured beyond repair. The letter that his father sent after first hearing the record was perhaps the final straw and behaviour that sheds some light on why The Doors frontman told such an elaborate lie about being an orphan to everyone he knew. Morrison didn’t belong to anyone or anywhere. The singer was much more at rest with his past left locked away in a box, out of sight, than getting out the key.