“Break on through to the other side!” snarled Jim Morrison on the first track of The Doors’ 1967 debut album.
Morrison’s musical existence revolved around spirituality and enlightenment. The band’s name came from Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a memoir detailing psychedelic experiences.
Morrison was often drunk and stoned at concerts, desperate to find the spiritual enlightenment he so craved. But to have both feet planted in the immaterial realm requires you to sacrifice your tether to the material world.
A consequence of this is overtly irrational behavior. Morrison had several brushes with the law, including an incident where he allegedly exposed his genitals to the crowd.
Why was he so inclined to walk through the proverbial Door of perception, even at the cost of his own well being?
But first, what gave Jim Morrison such diamond-solid talent?
Jim Morrison was a product of America’s so-called “Silent Generation,” the cohort of citizens born during the Great Depression and the years through World War II.
The prior “Greatest Generation” were the soldiers who ousted Hitler and eradicated European fascism to win the Second World War.
Who can forget the images of Americans dancing in the streets after Japan’s surrender?
Or the undying photo of a sailor and woman exchanging a euphoric kiss?
They were the Greatest Generation, indeed.😏
Silent Aftermath …
Unbeknownst to beginner historians, these historic battles beget a certain patina. A patina obscuring the mundane effects of the wars waged to vanquish evil.
Did these wars truly vanquish evil … or did they give rise to another evil, one more silent and malicious?
As a result of the war, many recruits came home afflicted with “shell shock” (later redefined as PTSD). These men uncomfortably tried to abide by their God-given roles as traditional fathers.
Because of what they had to do in the European theater and elsewhere, these soldiers weren’t able to stay rooted in the present.
Many of these fathers were either absent or abusive toward their spouses and children. As a result, their sons and daughters became wayward.
Many of these children went on to abuse drugs and engage in polyamorous relationships during their developing years in the 1950’s and 60’s.
More chaos would come and persist, for decades after the Nazi regime collapsed.
The chaotic aftermath of World War II, and the ensuing Cold War, was the political backdrop of the explosion of recreational drugs. It also portended the erosion of the family unit.
Jim Morrison himself was the archetype of this Silent Generation who grew up after the Second World War.
He was the poster child for those seeking hedonistic escapes to compensate for their lack of parental guidance.
Morrison was an icon for those seeking to break free from the confines that keep us safe. To break on through…to the other side.
He found the proverbial Door and was all-too-seager to step through, leading to his premature demise.
Early Years – Military Brat
Born in 1943 in Florida, Jim Morrison lived life as a military brat.
His father, George Stephen Morrison, was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. Present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese onslaught, George later flew missions in the Pacific Theater.
George Morrison also partook in the Korean and Vietnam Wars to help contain the spread of communism.
The most important role of his military career was arguably the Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam where he commanded the fleet with the USS Maddox.
Considered one of the most baffling events in modern war history, scholars have debated whether the US’s actions against North Vietnam were remotely legal.
While George wasn’t present at the Tonkin incident, he was symbolically linked to the “true” beginning of the war in Vietnam.
After the 1964 incident, the US became more involved to devastating and tragic consequences.
Father and Son
Months before the incident, Jim was on his father’s ship, the USS Bon Homme Richard.
It’s unknown if this photograph shows the last interaction Jim had with him. Jim reportedly cut ties with his family not too long after.
Further, it isn’t clear if his father’s involvement in Tonkin played a role in the ensuing acrimony.
If one were to dig for Jim’s hidden feelings regarding the Morrison family patriarch, they need to look no further than The End.
“He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door…and he looked inside
“Father?” “Yes, son.” “I want to kill you.”
“Mother, I want to…”
… Yeah. He wrote something about killing his father and copulating with his mother.
Morrison is considered one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters. But it’s like you have to be as obscure and arcane as possible with your words to earn such a distinction.
People fawn over Kurt Cobain’s lyrics and half can’t decipher what the hell they’re about!
Anyway … Jim hated his daddy. That’s all we need to know.
Despite having a military upbringing, Jim could never walk the line nor remain disciplined like his father.
Military brats are perceived as being more structured and intact than their peers. However, emerging evidence seems to indicate otherwise.
Military Upbringing – The Effects
Sure, it might be beneficial to have a (quasi) drill sergeant at home to ensure you’re sticking to your routine. Structure is good. Routine is good. Right?
What isn’t good, however, is tearing a growing child out of their surroundings constantly. It’s important for children to develop everlasting friendships at an early age.
But back-to-back deployments can cause anxiety and a long-term inability to form meaningful relationships.
Further, military brats reportedly experience a phenomenon called “the itch” to move from one place to another.
To be fair, this isn’t strictly a damaging quality. Shedding your roots can bring about valuable cultural exposure and multilingual proficiency.
Jim was documented as having a bohemian lifestyle where he never settled down anywhere.
In fact, he moved all the way to Paris, away from all of his bandmates right before his death.
During the onset of the Cold War, the United States military had to ramp up deployments to deter the communist threat.
Countries like South Korea, Japan, and South Vietnam required US consultation and assistance to resist the Soviet Union’s iron grasp.
Brat Life During the Cold War
It is very easy to imagine that Jim had to frequently relocate during his youth because of his father’s role as a high-ranking Admiral.
To make matters worse, his father was probably never present at home because of his demanding job.
If a child does not endure the proper discipline at home, they begin to search for an escape elsewhere.
They start to thrive in fantasy and expand the universe of their imaginations.
Again, not strictly a terrible quality but it does come at a cost.
There’s a sense of balance in all things, for better or worse. During the unforeseen assault on the family unit during the 20th century, there gave rise to artistic expression.
Out of ashes comes the phoenix.
Jim Morrison was a phoenix who tragically burned away too soon.
Since he found no place in reality, he surrendered himself to the grip of drugs and alcohol. He even showed up drunk and was arrested for disorderly conduct at a college football game.
He needed that escape to create the poetic force behind his lyrics. The same lyrics that would catapult the band to superstardom.
Sadly, the life of excess caught up with in 1971 when Jim was found dead in a bath tub.
The Greatest Generation has gotten historic recognition for stamping out the Nazi threat in Europe.
They also took the first necessary steps against communism, in a cold war that would finally be won in 1991.
But in that Generation’s over-protectiveness, with coarse hands gripping cold iron, they abandoned their children. They surrendered their tenderness for coldness. Their love for malice.
The ones who managed to return from the wars often applied an iron grip on their children’s lives.
Others didn’t have a grip to begin with. Some of their children became lost and broken.
Others became snakes and squirmed out of their parents’ grasp. Snakes of hedonism.
Jim Morrison was one of those snakes. He was the face of a lost generation. A generation who surrendered themselves to hedonistic pleasures to fill in the hole left by a nonexistent family life.
The songs and art they created were howls of pain and cries of tortured souls.
These souls often live in excess and self-destruct, as Morrison did.
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