James Douglas "Jim" Morrison was an American singer-songwriter and poet, best remembered as the lead singer and lyricist of the American rock band The Doors. Following The Doors' explosive rise to fame in 1967, Morrison developed a severe alcohol and drug dependency that culminated in his death at the age of 27 in Paris. He is alleged to have died of a heroin overdose, but as no autopsy was performed, the exact cause of his death is still disputed.
Morrison was well known for often improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live. Due to his wild personality and performances, he is regarded by critics and fans as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history. Morrison was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time", and number 22 on Classic Rock Magazine's "50 Greatest Singers In Rock".
James Douglas Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida, to future Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison and Clara Morrison. Morrison had a sister, Anne Robin, who was born in 1947 in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and a brother, Andrew Lee Morrison, who was born in 1948 in Los Altos, California. He was of Irish and Scottish descent.
With his father in the United States Navy, Morrison's family moved often. He spent part of his childhood in San Diego. While his father was stationed at NAS Kingsville, he attended Flato Elementary in Kingsville, Texas. In 1958 Morrison attended Alameda High School in Alameda, California. He graduated from George Washington High School (now George Washington Middle School) in Alexandria, Virginia in June 1961.
Morrison went to live with his paternal grandparents in Clearwater, Florida, where he attended classes at St. Petersburg College (then known as a junior college). In 1962, he transferred to Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee, where he appeared in a school recruitment film. While attending FSU, Morrison was arrested for a prank, following a home football game.
In January 1964, Morrison moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He enrolled in Jack Hirschman's class on Antonin Artaud in the Comparative Literature program within the UCLA English Department. Artaud's brand of surrealist theatre had a profound impact on Morrison's dark poetic sensibility of cinematic theatricality.
Morrison completed his undergraduate degree at UCLA's film school within the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965. He never went to the graduation ceremony, instead having his degree diploma mailed to him. He made several short films while attending UCLA. First Love, the first of these films, made with Morrison's classmate and roommate Max Schwartz, was released to the public when it appeared in a documentary about the film Obscura. During these years, while living in Venice Beach, he became friends with writers at the Los Angeles Free Press. Morrison was an advocate of the underground newspaper until his death in 1971. He later conducted a lengthy and in-depth interview with Bob Chorush and Andy Kent, both working for the Free Press at the time (January 1971), and was planning on visiting the headquarters of the busy newspaper shortly before leaving for Paris.
Morrison joined Pam in Paris in March 1971. They took up residence in the city in a rented apartment on the rue Beautreillis (in the 4th arrondissement of Paris on the Right Bank), and went for long walks throughout the city, admiring the city's architecture. During this time, Morrison shaved his beard and lost some of the weight he had gained in the previous months. His last studio recording was with two American street musicians—a session dismissed by Manzarek as "drunken gibberish". The session included a version of a song-in-progress, "Orange County Suite", which can be heard on the bootleg The Lost Paris Tapes. Morrison died on July 3, 1971 at age 27. In the official account of his death, he was found in a Paris apartment bathtub (at 17–19 rue Beautreillis, 4th arrondissement) by Courson. Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner stated that there was no evidence of foul play. The absence of an official autopsy has left many questions regarding Morrison's cause of death.