Morrison, Jim

Morrison, Jim (1943–1971) – Born James Douglas Morrison. Lead singer and songwriter of the late 1960s–early 1970s American rhythm-and-blues-, blues-, and jazz-influenced psychedelic rock band the Doors. The band’s name was taken from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception (in turn borrowed from William Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite”), chronicling Huxley’s experiments with mescaline and LSD.

With his saturnine good looks, exuberant stage presence, and cryptic lyrics, Morrison attained cult status among fans. He has been labeled a shaman due to his experiments with LSD and other drugs, the symbolic content of his improvised lyrics/poetry, his bohemian California lifestyle, and his interest in mysticism. Morrison’s wild, ecstatic, and magnetic stage performances in his alter ego, the Lizard King— involving shouting, screaming, and playing dead on the stage floor, as well as dancing as an eagle with arms outstretched—are visually reminiscent of shamanic rites. Oliver Stone’s biopic The Doors (1991) provides a particularly shamanic interpretation, associating Morrison with Native American mythology and desert vision quests, as well as the poetry of William Blake and Arthur Rimbaud and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Keen to be taken seriously as an artist, Morrison published two books of poetry in his lifetime, An American Prayer (1970) and The Lords and the New Creatures (1971); he also directed the film A Feast of Friends. Morrison died in Paris in 1971 at the age of 27; the registered cause of death was heart attack, but rumors of a heroin overdose persist.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007