Jim Morrison's music is eternal reminder of a man possessed by talent, questions, and urge to look for answers

Jim Morrison's music is eternal reminder of a man possessed by talent, questions, and urge to look for answers

Jim Morrison's music is eternal reminder of a man possessed by talent, questions, and urge to look for answers

In #TheMusicThatMadeUs, senior journalist Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri chronicles the impact that musicians and their art have on our lives, how they mould the industry by rewriting its rules and how they shape us into the people we become: their greatest legacies.

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Fifty years ago, The Doors released LA Woman in April 1971, a seminal album that saw the band return to its blues roots, stripped down from the heavy orchestration of their previous album The Soft Parade. It was also the last album to be released in the lifetime of frontman Jim Morrison, who tragically passed away three months later.

Half a century later, the band is set to release a 50th anniversary deluxe issue of the album on 3 December to mark the occasion and Morrison’s birthday a few days later. The reissue will comprise the remastered original album as well as two hours of unreleased session outtakes that find the band fine-tuning an album that went on to sell over 2 million copies.

Why LA Woman really matters as an album in The Doors’ discography is because it continued with Morrison Hotel’s high of blues rock, and reestablished Jim Morrison as an extremely influential, original singer-songwriter-frontman. The year 1969 was riddled with Morrison’s runs-in with the police over profanity and obscenity, culminating in his being barred at venues and unofficially treated as persona non grata. He is still the same wild child in LA Woman but there is unmistakable gravitas in his songwriting and sonorous singing; the person we all fell in love with and the man who defined what it is to be a true 'rockstar.'

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Think of the word 'rockstar,' and you will immediately find yourself thinking of a Jim Morrison prototype: Black leather pants and/or jackets, wild behaviour, unkempt hair, an air of mystery, the power to mesmerise a crowd, and of course, musical talent that keeps us longing for more. When Mr Mojo Risin’ (an anagram he created with his name) was on stage, you were transfixed as this sensual, noir entity of magnetism used his incomparable charisma, rich baritone, and poetic songwriting to hold you in thrall.

Morrison was wild both on stage and off it (as his numerous public indecency issues attest), gyrating suggestively with his eyes closed as his untamed locks swayed in tandem. His was a voice that sang loudest in defence of the counterculture movement while his penchant for questioning authority, fascination for the chaos that lies underneath order, and artistic flair for rich poetry, created in him the original bad boy of rock.

Suffice to say that by the time the '60s rolled in, thanks to The Beatles and the brewing counterculture crusade, rock n’ roll had already undergone a major sonic transition, oftentimes mixed with a heady dose of narcotics. A student of filmmaking who witnessed a car accident in a Native American reservation, had grown into a most alluring storyteller, gifted that he was with a soothing voice that did not hit the higher, screechy notes as often as his contemporaries. His voice alone has inspired the likes of Eddie Vedder, Iggy Pop, and Layne Staley, each iconic vocalists in their own right.

As he wrote in a collection of poems The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison I (Wilderness), “Why do I drink? So that I can write poetry… Forgive me Father for I know what I do / I want to hear the last poem of the last poet.” This one quick verse that speaks of intoxicated writing in one breath and puns a famous religious line in another, exemplifies how unorthodox his attitude to literature, music, and life itself is.

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Morrison’s writings were all over the place, literally and figuratively embodying the best of '60s psychedelia. Compulsively documenting his every thought and feeling, often in a heightened state of inebriation, his songs had a poetic quality that transcended a host of themes and cultures. Spanning mysticism, religion, mortality, love, erotica, futility, desperation, hope, and hopelessness, Morrison wrote for everyone, but above all, for himself.

He was the original rebel with a cause, one that believed in boundless self-expression even at the cost of irking authorities and society itself.

One look at The Doors’ biggest hits will give you an idea of how vivid the writing is, and how rich the song delivery is in a rock band that ironically did not have a full-time bassist. 'Riders on the Storm,' 'Break on Through,' 'Touch Me,' 'Love Me Two Times,' 'When The Music’s Over,' 'The End,' 'Hello I Love You,' 'Spanish Caravan,' 'The Unknown Soldier,' 'LA Woman'…the list is inexhaustive.

'The End' — among the most controversial of Morrison’s songs — touches upon the Oedipus Complex idea of Greek drama in a way that is almost taboo. It spawned a whole goth rock genre as Morrison urges you to embrace your inner self by returning to your roots after killing all that is superficial. Its use of the typically Indian sound is another example of The Doors’ love for Eastern influences, their discography being replete with sitar and veena strains.

Morrison led The Doors to create their own grammar of rock sound, drawing from themes and cultures that reeked of the hippie attitude of their frontman and his fans. His untimely death at the age of 27, hurled him into the unfortunate 27 club that saw Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin too unwittingly become a part of. His end came as abruptly as his career but has left an immeasurable legacy not just in terms of his music, but his attitude and spirit. Many musicians from the '60s live on through their music but it is Morrison’s essence that permeates through generations and genres of rock.

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His grave site at Pere Lachaise sports the words "Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy." loosely translated as "true to his own spirit." 'Daimona' remains widely contested for it holds the connotation of both spirit and demon, depending on one’s perspective and understanding of ancient Greek. It wasn’t that Morrison was evil or diabolical; instead, he was truly possessed by talent, by questions, and by an urge to look for answers.

Fifty years later, we realise that through his music he continues to hold the power to possess us.

Senior journalist Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri has spent a good part of two decades chronicling the arts, culture and lifestyles.

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