Jim Morrison is a mythic figure: a pin-up rock star, a sloppy drunk, an erudite poet, an existential seeker of the chaotic and dangerous 1960s. It’s no surprise then that different examinations of his life tend to yield remarkably different portraits. Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend is an attempt to cut away the myth and present a clear picture of a troubled, brilliant, and ultimately tragic figure. On that level, it is largely successful.
Author Stephen Davis, by conducting dozens of interviews and combing through an impressive array of original source materials, presents a balanced journalist’s view of Morrison from his earliest days as the son of an ambitious naval officer to his final bleary hours in Paris and the ongoing mysteries surrounding his death.
There is a great deal of new information, allegations, and theories in this sizeable volume that are not to be found in other bios. For instance, the seeds of Morrison’s later triumphs and blunders are closely examined in his parental care and childhood behavior. “Attachment theory,” for instance, is proposed to explain Morrison’s erratic behavior, shiftlessness, and inability to maintain relationships. Morrison’s penchant for passing out—both as bizarre practical joke as a youngster and as a common theme as junkie and alcoholic as an adult—is hung on a possible medical disorder. A possible enzyme deficiency is used to explain the habitual tendency to appear affable, social, and polite after enormous amounts of alcohol consumption followed by a light-switch flick to monstrous behavior (slapping women, pissing in public, yelling obscenities—especially racial epithets—at the top of his lungs).
The Big Revelation, if there is one, is a torrent of bisexual and experimental sexual practice by the self proclaimed Lizard King. We see Morrison’s lawyers scrambling at different points during his life to squash rumors and blackmail attempts in this regard. The Doors lawyers are kept quite busy through the end of Morrison’s life, in fact, with paternity cases, obscenity charges and, of course, the Big Trial based upon the Miami, 1969 concert and its subsequent charges of public indecency and inciting a riot that begat the circus-atmosphere trial watched carefully by the “paranoid Nixon Administration” and which effectively helped to set sail The Doors’ career into the sunset.