The Doors - A Legend in American Rock Music

Term Paper, 2002
13 Pages, Grade: 1



I. Introduction

II. The history of the 1960s

III. The Doors
1. Music, lyrics and influences
2. Image and performance
3. Jim Morrison

IV. Conclusion

V. Bibliography

I. Introduction

The Doors, who were recently honoured to be the most famous band of the USA, are now selling more records per year than during their whole career with vocalist Jim Morrison[1]. Almost everything about this band is legendary: their singer, the electric poet Morrison, their all styles of music including sound, the rise and fall of the band and their entry into the Hall of Fame[2].

In order to analyse The Doors one must consider the historical and political events, which had a deep impact on the social changes of the 60s. At a time when the world was threatened to lose control, the college students who were the main audience for rock music wanted musicians and performers who also threatened to go out of control[3] and that was what The Doors did at that time. Furthermore one has to take a close look on their music, lyrics, image and live performance.

The late 60s were the era of mass movement. There was a need among young people for the intimacy of the listening experience, public events, such as the Monterey Pop Festival, the Human Be-Ins in San Franzisco and Woodstock[4] took place during this period.

The Doors were the first of the new era of Rock ’n’ Roll who brought theatrical quality to music and knew about the power of entertainment. They represented one possible form of the merging between high culture and popular culture. They were so successful, that they were the first American rock band to produce eight consecutive gold albums.

What were the reasons for the success of The Doors during the 60s, why have they influenced so many bands and why are they still so successful?

II. The history of the 1960s

The cultural climate of the 1950s was very restrictive[5]. Nevertheless musicians like Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley were the initiators of a new style of music: Rock ’n’ Roll and the first rebellious youth movement was born[6].

The 60s developed into the mysterious decade of the 20th century, not only in pop culture but in history aswell[7]. The early 1960s were characterised by the Cold War, the Cuba crisis and the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion[8]. The whole world was on the edge of the Third World War. The peak of this decade[9] was the period from 1964, after Kennedy’s assassination and the first concert of The Beatles in America, to 1969, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The outbreak of the Vietnam war was of course the central event in the second half of the 60s. Not only war itself but the fact that every American citizen could watch it on TV. This experience for the American public was completely new, so that some people called the war in Vietnam "the living room war"[10]. The discovery of the deep effects of violent pictures changed the broadcasting of news on the TV screen. The visual criteria became the most important one during the war and battle footage was of course most impressive. Therefore the Americans got segments of military combat almost every day[11]. The American people seemed to be brainwashed: news about the war, Western movies, war movies and sport events, just another kind of war[12]. There was violence on the TV screen almost 24 hours a day.

The number of Americans fighting against the Vietcong rose above 500,000 in 1967 and the protest against the presence of US troops increased[13]. The Tet offensive in January 1968 rang in the political end of President Lyndon B. Johnsen[14]. His obsession with the war against communism caused suffering and thousands of soldiers′ death.

In contrast to this war abroad Johnsen gave America the Civil Rights Bill[15]. But the race riots of the early 60s did not end. From 1966-1968 racial conflict continued[16]. Like pictures of Vietnam, the TV coverage of riots and demonstrations could be seen on the screen[17]. Mass protest like at the Sorbonne in Paris in April 1968 spread like a wildfire via TV, so that many universities in the US imitated those actions to fight against the grievances of the establishment. The demonstrations against the war escalated in the late 60s. The National Guard opened fire on students of Kent State, protesting against the war. Four students died and dozens were hurt[18]. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King both were murdered and Charles Manson committed his massacre[19]. The USA seemed to be on the edge of collective insanity.

Another form of protest was the Hippie movement. The Human Be-Ins on January 9th 1967 in San Franzisco[20] initiated the flower-power movement of the late 60s. The Hippies proclaimed love and peace, but they had no clear political ambitions. The Hippies had their own music style: acid rock. This new genre was closely connected to the use of drugs, like marihuana and LSD. The most famous event of the Hippie movement was Woodstock in 1969.

The 1960s were the most violent decade of the last century in America. There was war against communism, but also a fundamental struggle within the American society. This was the perfect fertile soil for The Doors.

III. The Doors

III. 1. Music, lyrics and influences

In 1965 four young men formed a Rock ′n′ Roll band and called themselves The Doors. The name was taken from Aldous Huxley′s book on mescaline "The Doors of Perception", which quoted William Blake′s poem[21].

Like the beatniks who tried to unite jazz and poetry in the late 50s[22], Jim Morrison found music to be a channel for projecting his poetry with the addition of theatrical aspects. Within their music the band united poetry, spirituality, intellect and psycho-sexual exploration as far as possible. Their goal was to fuse rock music with both existencial poetry and improvisational theater like nobody did before. So The Doors′ music was more poetic and lyric than most of its time.

Raymond Manzarek, the organist of The Doors, was Morrison’s fellow-student in UCLA film school. They were both influenced by their studies so that they decided to create the musical transformation of UCLA film school[23]. Where Simon & Garfunkel offered aestheticism and sincerity, the Doors offered theatricality and sexuality[24]. They were influenced by Rimbaud and tried to transpose his rational derangement of all senses in order to achieve the unknown[25]. Jim Morrison was also inspired by the writings of Nietzsche, Artraud' s "Theater of Cruelty", C.G. Jung and Freud's Oedipus complex[26]. On their first album The Doors recorded "Alabama song (Whiskey Bar)" a part of the Bertold Brecht – Kurt Weill opera The Rise and the Fall of the City of Mahogony from 1927[27]. One can see that the bands‛ main influences came from literature and high culture. It was not only Jim Morrison who was inspired by literature. All the members of the band read much. Like most of the WASP[28] kids, the members of The Doors had gone to good high schools and colleges. So their well-educated middle and upper class audience knew what the band was talking about.


[1] Moddemann, p. 7

[2] Ibid., p. 9

[3] Curtis, p. 215

[4] Ibid., p. 130

[5] Schober, p. 13

[6] Ibid., p. 13

[7] Curtis, p. 109

[8] Kinder/Hilgemann, p. 549

[9] Curtis, p. 110

[10] Ibid., p. 110

[11] Ibid., p. 113

[12] Ibid., p. 114

[13] Curtis, p. 117

[14] Kinder/Hilgemann, p. 581

[15] Ibid., p. 520

[16] Ibid., p. 583

[17] Curtis, p. 123

[18] Manzarek, p. 279

[19] Ibid., p. 279

[20] Ibid., p. 218

[21] Moddemann, p. 14

[22] Schober, p.15

[23] Ibid., p. 35

[24] Curtis, p. 177

[25] Schober, p.16

[26] Curtis, p. 178

[27] Ibid., p. 259

[28] WASP means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant

Excerpt out of 13 pages


The Doors - A Legend in American Rock Music
University of Constance  (Language Institute)
Cultural Studies: North America
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
428 KB
Doors, Legend, American, Rock, Music, Cultural, Studies, North, America
Quote paper
Sebastian Schmid (Author), 2002, The Doors - A Legend in American Rock Music, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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