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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Jim Morrison's ride on the storm
The Doors
Morrison (third from left) and The Doors exemplified 60s counter-culture
In the 30 years since his death, Jim Morrison's story has lost none of its fascination - and his reputation is probably greater now than in the heyday of his group The Doors.

The idea of the group came to Morrison, born in Florida in 1943, when he was a student of theatre arts at the University of California in the early 1960s.

He sang a rudimentary composition to a college friend, the keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who was impressed enough to invite him to join the band Rick and the Ravens.

The group rehearsed half a dozen Morrison compositions - alienating two of the musicians, who left - and started a residency in Los Angeles' Sunset Strip under the name The Doors.

Morrison, characteristically, had found the name in Aldous Huxley's account of drug experiences The Doors Of Perception.

Fired

The group's music was an experience, too - it ranged from the catchiness of Light My Fire to the chilling and dramatic The End.

The Doors
The Doors first toured Europe in 1968
It was the latter song that got the group fired from the Whisky-A-Go-Go club, but they soon clinched a record deal thanks to the goods offices of fellow Californian band Love, who recommended them to Elektra Records.

Their first album, released in 1967, showed off the excellent musicianship of keyboardist Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger, and found Morrison developing his unique vocal persona - half withdrawn, half menacing, wholly unforgettable.

The album's Light My Fire was a number 1 hit in the US, though only grazed the British charts.

Their following albums Strange Days and Waiting For The Sun, provided further American hits and, in Hello I love You, a British number 15.

But commercial success was decidedly double-edged for Morrison.

Intoxication

The band was losing some of its credibility in the rock underground, which may have led the singer to feel obliged to behave more outrageously.

He was drinking and using drugs heavily and in 1969 he was arrested for indecent exposure, lewd conduct and public intoxication after a concert in Miami's Dinner Key auditorium.

Though some of the charges were later dropped, the scandal made it hard for the band to work live for some time.

Morrison used the crisis as a spur to creativity and produced one of the group's best albums, Morrison Hotel, in 1970.

Literary career

But Morrison's mind was elsewhere.

He had already published two volumes of poetry, The Lords and The New Creatures, and planned to begin a literary career once his contractual obligations to Elektra were fulfilled.

His last record with the Doors, LA Woman, was quite possibly their finest, and contained another defining track, the haunting Riders On The Storm.

But Morrison himself was now in a steep physical decline.

Escaping to Paris while the band was still mixing LA Woman, he spoke of dropping music altogether and becoming a writer - but died in his bathtub - officially of a heart attack - on 3 July 1971.

Only his common law wife Pamela Courson (later a suicide) and an anonymous doctor saw the body, leaving the way clear for rock's rumour machine to create the legend that Morrison had faked his own death.

He is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where his grave has become a shrine for successive generations of fans.

Eerie

Since Morrison's death his records have never been out of print and his influence has been heard on a great many rock artists, including Britain's Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds and The Stranglers.

Hollywood, too, has found the Doors' eerie music attractive.

The End was memorably used in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and in 1991 Oliver Stone helped cement the Morrison legend with his film biography The Doors starring Val Kilmer.

The mainstream acceptance which had so disturbed Morrison had arrived, and, so far at least, it has not gone away.

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