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.