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Jim Morrison, December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971

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It’s hard to believe but it was 39 years ago today that Jim Morrison died under mysterious circumstances in Paris, France.  The Doors’ frontman, one of the great characters in rock and roll history, was only 27.

The Doors are mandatory listening for anyone who is serious about being a student of American rock and roll.  I worked as an overnight DJ at a classic rock station and it’s there I learned more Doors songs than “Hello I Love You” and “Light My Fire.”  There’s nothing wrong with those songs but it wasn’t until I first played “Roadhouse Blues" at midnight on a Friday night or heard “Riders On The Storm” at 3 a.m. on a Saturday that I began to appreciate the breadth of The Doors and through the years that followed I began delving deeper into their discography.  I never became as big a fan of the band as I did of others I knew before or learned of during my stint in radio, but my appreciation for them grew and as I said, you can’t tell the story of rock’s evolution without pausing to discuss and listen to them.

In honor of Morrison and his musical legacy, we have a short playlist today outlining a few of my favorites.  These are just a few songs that have done it for me.  I hope some of the more dedicated fans will join in the discussion in the comments to talk about what a magnificent frontman Morrison was and remember some of their favorite gigs, songs, and moments.

1) “The Crystal Ship:”
“Before we slip into unconsciousness…”  This is my favorite Doors song ever.  I don’t hear it mentioned often enough, but The Doors’ self-titled debut really should be more prominent in discussions about greatest debut records ever.  Look at the songs they came out of the box with!  Album cuts like the mystical, magical “Crystal Ship” are part of what makes it such a strong record.  It is also proof that Morrison could be poetic without being indulgent and self-conscious.  Morrison and The Doors could be epic and they could be long-winded.  “Crystal Ship” is neither.  It’s a perfect piece of mystic pop.

2) “Break On Through:”
 It’s an obvious choice, yes, but this is as close to a Doors’ theme song as there is.  “Break On Through” doesn’t embody everything The Doors were about, but much of what defines the band’s legacy is revealed in 2:30.

3) “Roadhouse Blues:”  The Doors aren’t the first band you think of when you start ticking off the great American blues-rock bands but there’s no doubt these guys had an understanding and appreciation for the idiom and “Roadhouse Blues” is one of their finest entrants into the crowded field.  Along with certain songs by Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry, you shouldn’t dream of playing for beer money at the local watering hole if you can’t passably cover this song.

4) “Love Her Madly:” They had bigger hits that have a broader appeal but there’s something about the way Morrison sings this one and the way the band follows him that has always stuck with me.  It’s by no means an obscure choice but it’s rarely the first song that gets ticked off when The Doors’ hits are counted.

5) “Not To Touch The Earth:”  I am The Lizard King; I can do anything.

Rest in peace, Jim.  Your legacy continues to live on.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Great choice of songs, Josh. I hope you don’t mind, but I reblogged you piece today in honor of Jim Morrison’s death day. http://www.jimmorrisonproject.com/entry/2014/07/jim-morrison-december-8-1943-july-3-1971

  • 11

    The Unknown Soldier
    The End
    Five To One

  • I’m a huge fan and over the years my favorites are more on the “deep cut” side. Unhappy Girl is way up there, as is Someday Soon and Gloria (cover). That said, while Light My Fire, Break On Through, and Hello I Love You are the anthems that most clearly and obviously relate The Doors’ sound, there’s a huge breadth of styles that they explore, as Josh notes. Great stuff !

  • john

    in no particular order:

    The End
    Moonlight Drive
    LA Woman
    Strange Days

    and the rest of the bottom/top 5:

    Unhappy Girl
    Take it as it Comes
    The Soft Parade
    Wintertime Love
    Wild Child

  • Robert B.

    I am an unapologetic Doors head, and I stand with Joe Queenan who said that the Doors was “the only truly great American rock band.”

    I was always mesmerized by Krieger’s brilliant guitar break in the middle of “20th Century Fox.”

    I also love “The End,” “You’re Lost, Little Girl,” “Maggie McGill” and “Summer’s Almost Gone.”

    Morrison was a troubled man, but a great artist.

  • I’m definitely in the minority on this, but I like “The Soft Parade” album a lot…or at least about half of it.

    “Wishful Sinful” is nearly as pretty as “Crystal Ship,” “Wild Child” is a great rocker, and “Touch Me” is just hooky as all get out. The title track is Morrison at his dark, shamanistic, goofy Lizard King best.

    The rest of it not so much, but those four tracks rank among their best, at least in my opinion.

    Like the new direction of this feature a lot by the way, Josh.


  • I dig “Riders.” I could have made a much longer play list outta this one. The Doors were kinda good. Glad to hear everyone else’s favorites though.

  • my favorites are “The End” and “Riders On The Storm”. i guess it’s their more atmospheric side that resonates.

    gotta check out When You’re Strange. also want to watch the Doors movie to see if i think it’s as bad as i thought it was the first time.

  • You should check out “When You’re Strange”. It just came out on home video and is a good documentary on them. I’d point you to a Blu-ray review elsewhere but it’s in limbo currently.

    You can find my five on YouTube. If you want to discuss those, I’ll pop back in

  • When I was jotting down my list and playing with it, “Five To One” was on there and easily could have been one of the ones I discussed.

  • Thanks, Bicho. I was pretty sure you’d weigh in on this one. You have a deeper connection with The Doors than I do and was hoping you’d stop by with some of your favorites. I like them a lot and appreciate them but have never had the frenzied, passionate connection with them. Those are some great choices. I’m going to go back and give those another listen at the recommended high volume.

  • In no particular order:

    “When the Music’s Over” – No matter how many times I listen to it I am always surprised by where the music goes as it keeps up with Jim’s lyrics.

    “Moonlight Drive” – possibly their sexiest song. This should be on your make-out mixtape.

    “Five to One” – needs to be played loud. I dig the “youth taking over from the old” vibe.

    “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” – They’ve got nothing else that sounds like this which may be why I like it so. Ray kills it towards song’s end and the line “No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn” are words to live by.

    I’ll take your “Roadhouse Blues” but it has to be the live version off “An American Prayer,” my pick for their best album. Not just because there needs to be something live from them on any list, which there does, but the elements around the performance are priceless. The announcer over the screaming crowd introducing them “From Los Angeles CA” adds some excitement. Jim talking to the crowd is hysterical. He’s mentions astrology and a woman/groupie points out his sign. He’s says it’s all a bunch of bullshit which she agrees with. He concludes with something along the lines “I’m gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.” Words to live by.