The Doors frontman Jim Morrison would have been 67 years old today, and thank goodness no over-ambitious magazine has taken to age-advance him on their cover. I think everyone -- even those like me who was just a baby when he died -- would prefer to always remember him as that deep, suffering, rebellious dude with the gorgeous hair and haunting voice who reinvented music and died way too young.
Today, July 3, is the 40th anniversary of his death from an apparent heroin overdose. He was found in a bathtub in Paris, where the coroner ruled the official cause of death a heart attack. "True to his own destiny, true to his own spirit." Beautiful right? Describes Morrision perfectly, right?
What I find so amazing about that line -- inscribed in Greek on his tombstone in a Paris cemetery -- is not how well it describes him and his legacy but who was responsible for putting it there.
Not one of his band mates, or his girlfriend, or even one of his fans. It was put there by his father. Who Morrison hated.
Morrison's relationship with his father was legendary. He often called himself an orphan, even wrote lyrics talking about the death of the man. Nicknamed the Admiral, the career Navy father was a hard ass who treated his children like one of his crew, when he was actually around an not off on a boat somewhere at sea. It was the very recipe for the rebellion that was the root of Morrison's soul.
In a video from the DVD "When You're Strange," a rare interview with George S. Morrison paints the picture of a distant man who never really supported or understood his son's love of music and poetry. Oh, he recognized his son's talent for vocabulary and creativity, but thought those talents better used studying film and making movies in Hollywood in what he considered "a real job."
He said he was "flabbergasted" when his son called home one day and said he was going on the road with a rock band. "That's ridiculous," he hold him. "Get yourself a job."
In the fairly recent interview that was taped before the senior Morrison's own death in 2008, the father seems puzzled by his son and why everyone made such a big deal over him. To the end he never considered what his son did a "talent" but rather just a knack for being a good "entertainer." He knew the titles of his son's songs, but never bothered to listen to any of the lyrics (that's probably a good thing) and considered himself a "poor interpreter of his talents."
It explains so much about Morrison and who he was. But then the gravestone lyrics come along. Morrison and his wife actually sought out a Greek professor to help them come up with the right description for their son's grave. They may not have understood his profession or his passion but they still understood him, as their child, and this was their belated way of acknowledging that.
Morrison probably wouldn't have been who he was or ended up the way he did without his father being who he was. And that kind of boggles the mind, because which way would any of us rather have it?
Image via Bruce Tuten/Flickr