A poster child of 1960s counterculture, Jim Morrison is considered one of the most influential rock stars of all time. The Doors front man is remembered for his unique baritone voice, wild performances, and a lifestyle that embodied the spirit of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll." But before he was a rock star, Morrison was a poet — and even more than the tight leather pants and psychedelic sound, it's the resonance of his lyrics that made him a legend.
As a film student at the University of California Los Angeles, Morrison soon lost interest in movies and became increasingly drawn to poetry. He was inspired by the Beat writers of the 1950s and Romantic poets of the mid-19th century. In fact, The Doors' band name came from a line by Romantic poet William Blake (which was referenced in Aldous Huxley’s book about psychedelics, "The Doors of Perception"): "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear as it is, infinite."
Morrison teamed up with keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore to form The Doors in 1965, and the poet-turned-songwriter’s dark and moving lyrics — which often touched on deep themes such as loneliness and societal alienation — struck a chord with the young generation. Just as Bob Dylan had elevated the art of lyric writing for folk music, Morrison introduced an intellectual and emotional meaning to rock music in the 1960s. As Krieger said in a recent interview with CBS, "Well, he wasn't really a musician; he was more of a word musician — magician." Decades after Morrison’s tragic death at age 27 in 1971, his songwriting, such as the 15 lyrics below, continues to move listeners.
The day’s divinity, first thing you see.
— "The Ghost Song" from the album "An American Prayer," 1978
Can you picture what will be, so limitless and free.
— "The End," from the album "The Doors," 1967
With hunger at her heels, freedom in her eyes.
— "Wild Child" from the album "The Soft Parade," 1969
Oh tell me where your freedom lies. The streets are fields that never die. Deliver me from reasons why. You’d rather cry, I’d rather fly.
— "The Crystal Ship," from the album "The Doors," 1967
Some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to the endless night.
— "End of the Night," from the album "The Doors," 1967
The future's uncertain, and the end is always near.
— "Roadhouse Blues" from the album “Morrison Hotel,” 1970
Love hides in the strangest places. Love hides in familiar faces.
— “Love Hides” from the album “Absolutely Live,” 1970
No eternal reward will forgive us now, for wasting the dawn.
— “Stoned Immaculate” from the album “An American Prayer,” 1978
Why did you throw the jack of hearts away? It was the only card in the deck that I had left to play.
— “Hyacinth House” from the album “L.A. Woman,” 1971
Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven's claws."
— "A Feast Of Friends" from the album "An American Prayer," 1978
For the music is your special friend. Dance on fire as it intends.
— "When The Music's Over” from the album “Strange Days,” 1967
People are strange when you're a stranger… Streets are uneven when you're down.
— "People Are Strange” from the album “Strange Days,” 1967
She has wisdom and knows what to do. She has me and she has you.
— "Love Street" from the album "Waiting for the Sun," 1968
Let's swim to the moon, uh-huh. Let's climb through the tide. Surrender to the waiting worlds that lap against our side.
— "Moonlight Drive" from the album “Strange Days,” 1967
Time to live, time to lie, time to laugh, and time to die. Take it, easy baby. Take it as it comes.
— "Take It As It Comes" from the album "The Doors," 1967
Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/ Getty Images