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James Douglas Morrison was the son of George Stephen Morrison and his wife Clara Clark Morrison, both employed by the United States Navy. His father was a strict military officer, who served as an admiral. Jim was raised by his conservative parents but would grow to express drastically different views than those taught to him.
According to Jim Morrison the most important event of his life came in 1947 during a family trip in New Mexico. He described the event as follows:
"The first time I discovered death... me and my mother and father, and my grandmother and grandfather, were driving through the desert at dawn. A truckload of Indians had either hit another car or something- there were Indians scattered all over the highway, bleeding to death. I was just a kid, so I had to stay in the car while my father and grandfather went to check it out. I didn't see nothing- all I saw was funny red paint and people lying around, but I knew something was happening, because I could dig the vibrations of the people around me, and all of a sudden I realized that they didn't know what was happening any more than I did. That was the first time I tasted fear... and I do think, at that moment, the souls of those dead Indians- maybe one or two of them-were just running around, freaking out, and just landed in my soul, and I was like a sponge, ready to sit there and absorb it."
Morrison growing up, became a seeker, interested in exploring new avenues and new sensations, and led a bohemian lifestyle in California, attending UCLA, drifting about and sleeping on couches and rooftops, reading books voraciously. After graduating UCLA, Morrison read some poems to fellow student, Ray Manzarek and they both decided on the spot to start a rock band. To complete the band, two more members, Robbie Krieger and John Densmore joined the group. (The name The Doors came from an Aldous Huxley book, The Doors of Perception, in turn borrowed from a line of poetry by William Blake), "When the doors of perception are cleansed/ Things will appear as they are, Infinite". He developed a unique singing voice and a style of poetry leaning heavily on mysticism.
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Jim Morrison took for himself the nickname "Mr. Mojo Risin'", an anagram of "Jim Morrison", and which he eventually used as a refrain in his final single, LA Woman. He was also called The Lizard King from a line in his famed epic poem Celebration of the Lizard, part of which appeared on the album Waiting for the Sun and which was adapted into a musical in the 1990s.
Even before The Doors formed, Morrison began consuming a variety of drugs, drank alcohol consistently, and indulged in various bacchanalia, sometimes showing up for recording sessions while inebriated (he can be heard hiccuping on the song "Five To One.") Jim Morrison's performances have influenced many, including Patti Smith. Live shows often possessed shamanistic qualities.
Morrison moved to Paris, France in March 1971 with the intention of concentrating on his writing.
Jim Morrison died in Paris, France on July 3, 1971, in his bathtub at the age of 27; many fans and biographers have speculated that the cause of death was a drug overdose, or possibly an assassination by American government authorities. Morrison remarked several times near his death that he was "number 3". Referring to himself as likely to be the third person to die mysteriously; Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin being the first two. The official report listed "heart attack" as the cause of death. Morrison is buried in the famous Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in eastern Paris: because his fans there are generally perceived as nuisances, leaving litter and graffiti behind them, it has been suggested that a new burial site will have to be found.
Some fans believe that Jim Morrison faked his death in order to escape the spotlight. Conspiracy theorists point out that Morrison's longtime girlfriend, Pamela Courson, initially told the press that Morrison was merely "very tired and resting in a hospital", that very few people had actually seen the corpse prior to its burial, and that Morrison,in the months prior to his 'death', had often talked jokingly with his bandmates about "splitting to Africa". Doors drummer, John Densmore, upon visiting Morrison's grave for the first time, is said to have remarked that it was too short. To some, Jim Morrison was a rebel, to others a rock-n-roll poet.