The Verse Of The Lizard King: An Analysis Of Jim Morrison’s Work

Most have heard of the legendary musical group The Doors and their lead singer/front man Jim Morrison, who tragically died in Paris in 1971. What many do not remember is that Morrison had numerous problems to contend with during his short life. Among them were issues with his father, drug and alcohol abuse, and problems with people and the idea of fame in general.

Who Is Jim Morrison?

Jim Morrison was born James Douglas Morrison, December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida USA, the son of Clara Virginia (née Clarke) and future Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison. According to Wikipedia, early in his life he was inspired by the writings of philosophers and poets. He was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, whose views on aesthetics, morality, and the Apollonian and Dionysian duality would appear in his conversation, poetry and songs. He read Plutarch’s “Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans” and also read the works of the French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose style would later influence the form of his short prose poems. He was influenced by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Baudelaire, Molière, Franz Kafka, Honoré de Balzac and Jean Cocteau, along with most of the French existentialist philosophers.

Morrison lived a brief life. Here is a man who was at the top of the popular music scene at the time, and had all the fame and all the chicks he could want, but still found his muse not in being a rock star, but rather in poetry. He aspired to write and get published, but despite his popularity as a musician he was at a loss to find a publisher who would take him seriously enough as a poet and put his work out there.

He finally decided to self-published his poems, and of course had to do so the old-fashioned way as this was decades before print-on-demand technology, ePub, and Kindle. His first collection of work was The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures. The Lords consists primarily of brief descriptions of places, people, events, and Morrison’s thoughts on cinema. The New Creatures verses are more poetic in structure, feel, and appearance. These two books were later combined into a single volume titled The Lords and The New Creatures. From what I understand, the first self-published version was a limited run of about 100 copies. They were primarily given as gifts to friends and colleagues and anyone who might have potential connections to a publisher.

The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison Volume I is entitled “Wilderness,” and upon its release in 1988, became an instant New York Times Bestseller. Volume II, “The American Night,” released in 1990, also had success. Morrison recorded his own poetry in a professional sound studio on two separate occasions. The first was in March of 1969 in Los Angeles and the second was in 1970.

It was in the summer of 1971 when Jim Morrison went to Paris to chill out, take a break from his music celebrity-dom in America, as well as to devote himself to writing his poetry. Some suspected that he was also evading possible jail time in the States, where he was found guilty of indecent exposure during a Doors concert. Despite his improved physical appearance, Morrison was drinking heavily and his years of the party lifestyle were rapidly catching up with him. Late in the evening of July 2nd, while spending time with his girlfriend Jim tried a shot of heroin on top of all the alcohol he had already consumed during the day. Shortly after he prepared a bath for himself, and it was very early in the morning on July 3rd when he eventually drifted off to unconsciousness and passed away.

To many people Jim Morrison’s poetry is dribble. Even his first wife stated in an interview that she felt as a poet he was a better song writer. To many others, Morrison’s poems are absolutely brilliant.

What makes good poetry and art?

Is Jim Morrison’s poetry good? Does the creator of any work of art have to die tragically in order to become famous or to have any kind of lasting impact?

When one grows up stateside and studies poetry, names such as Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, and Walt Whitman come to mind. The notable differences between these the famous classic poets and Jim Morrison was that the former were around much longer to evolve their art.

For those who think Morrison’s poems were a bit sophomoric, was there enough indication that he could he have evolved sufficiently to join the ranks of the greats in the poetry arena? The art of poetry is a tricky one, so let’s look the other direction: did not Frost, Stevens, Lowell and Whitman not have their bad periods early on in their careers? And if Morrison had lived a longer life, and stayed away from the booze and drugs, could he not have evolved into what experts might consider a great poet?

Morrison’s involvement with The Doors

The Doors was way before my time, but while I was in high school there was a small niche crowd that worshiped the Doors and Morrison. And Morrison’s self-read poetry was among their discography. I wondered what exactly it was that they liked so much about Morrison? Was it the music? Morrison’s poetry? Or quite possibly his shooting star, short lived life? One of the better-known biographies about Morrison and the Doors is “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman. In perusing the book and reading some of the reviews, I stumbled across one interesting insight on hero worship vs. worship of art:

It must be known that a derangement of the senses is not rational. Too much literature and film has glorified Morrison’s drug and alcohol abuse causing grotesque behavior as some sort of philosophy of life and inner genius. The persons responsible for the literature and film really have used calculated techniques to sell products. Hero worship has shown to be a major selling point of works related to the Doors and Morrison.

For youngsters in high school or younger it is not difficult to idolize this skewed portrait of Morrison, while older and more mature fans may very well grow to hate the man for what he has been portrayed as. What matters most about Morrison is his art. He was an intelligent and unique person as well, but his flaws need to be represented as what they were, not as his lasting legacy. It is my opinion that his drug use often got in the way of the good aspects of his personality, creating a deranged and pathetic figure.

He also, (his drug abuse could have contributed), did not face up enough to the numerous difficulties that he faced in life (his parents old fashioned views, film school trendy half-wits slamming his work, and troubles with the law), and this may be what hurt him in the end. These difficulties have to be shown for what they were, and then the world will be able to more fully appreciate the aspects of what made Morrison the artist he was. If mainstream works of bloated literature and film continue to romanticize about the worst aspects of Morrison, he and the rest of the Doors will never be appreciated in the ways they should be. I hope some day a person will go through the trouble of writing a critical but always thoughtful work on the band, and Morrison.

Even if Jim Morrison’s poetry may fail to hit the mark for experts, I cannot help but sense that there was something very real in his writings. I suspect that with Morrison, the soul was there. You decide. I have to say that I do find it interesting how contemporary music lyrics and what constitutes serious poetry share, to a certain extent, a common thread with each other in popular culture.

Below are just a few audio recordings of Jim Morrison’s poems, recited by the author himself. The last video clip at the bottom of the post is what I think is a good documentary (running time approximately 20 minutes) about Jim Morrison and The Doors, given by the group’s keyboardist, and arguably Morrison’s best friend, Ray Manzarek. This is an interesting insight to not just Ray, Jim and the Doors, but also a brief historical look at Venice California at that time.

Under Waterfall

American prayer


And finally, the documentary from Ray Manzarek:

From an ontological perspective it would have been intriguing to observe the zeitgeist of the years between the post beatniks / pre-hippie era. Times can and do change. Starting at the 11:50 time marker in the documentary, Ray is reminiscing about the past when he and Morrison were just starting out as musicians. As I notice his expression on his face as he talks about those times, one gets the impression, that in life, it is not the destination that counts, but rather the journey. Even though he had become well-established in his career when he produced this mini documentary, it is clear that those days of struggling where among the happiest for Manzarek. Perhaps for Morrison as well.

Read Next: Why Man Needs His Myths

55 thoughts on “The Verse Of The Lizard King: An Analysis Of Jim Morrison’s Work”

  1. In my opinion, Jim Morrison is a prime example of what to avoid in becoming a great man. Supremely talented and gifted in both looks and artistic ability, but pissed it all away on drugs and drink because he couldn’t handle success and he probably was already a bit fried in the head. As a kid he believe a soul of Native American entered his body or he might have made that up when he went full space cadet as an adult.
    The lesson that Jim imparts is that talent means fuck all without the means, drive and discipline to see it through to your own kingdom. History is littered with brilliant men that have chased down the rabbit hole because they will never be truly accepted by their peers. For people like Jim and his ilk, you either reach the top of your potential or you get shallowed by the abyss. The elites live in a bubble not only because they want to but also because they have to. Jim should have stayed away from the substances and reached for the stars on his terms instead of dying a bloated death.

    1. Live fast, die young. He died in a early age, but i bet he lived more than the majority of men will ever live.

      1. But it’s wasn’t a good time for Morrison. He went on benders because he was diving in despair. What he really wanted to was make something everlasting in terms of great art. He just couldn’t take the pressure that went with his fame and couldn’t master his mental demons.
        Personally, I wouldn’t want one minute of Morrison life as it seemed like he lived in a mental anguish. The point being all that fame and status are moot when you’re a basket case.

        1. We have no idea what he went through and what went on in his background. That kind of incessant, self destructive drug abuse is not about a “party animal out of control” but a very desparate, emotionally destitute man overwhelmed by pain he is trying futilely to self-medicate. Tragic life and sad loss of so much potential.

      2. QUOTE: “Live fast, die young.”
        There is something about this that tends to contribute to a man’s fame. Today Jim Morrison’s grave receives hundreds of thousands of visitors, according to the cemetery officials. But when Morrison died there were only a handful of people who tended the ceremony, according to their curator. I suspect that dying young in the midst of a high point in one’s artistic career makes for potential posthumous fame legendary status.

        1. Also, what was the song from Blondie??? Oh yeah… “Die young, Stay Pretty” There are still legends that keep their built in audience and attract new listeners as well. But really, Since Western culture, in particular the USA favors youth, if Morrison survived through his years of angst and grew old, would we not be put off? Hard to say. Below is a rendered photo of old Jim, taken from one of the more well known PR shots early on during the Doors.

        2. Holy fuck I think I’m blind from that rendered photo! But I get what you’re saying about youth. Unfortunately the elderly are almost despised in America. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point the powers that be establish a law shipping the eldely off to a dog food factory to be processed into mal for pets.

        3. Nasty photo. But somehow I think that he would have a weight problem should he have grown old. Man….. as I write this, he would be almost 70 years old.

    2. I am old enough to remember the Doors hitting the music scene. Really innovative pop for its day, with Ray Mazarek’s jazzy riffs lending artsy sophistication.
      But white people aping Native American shtick is ridiculous and insulting. Despite this, Rider on the Storm is a great tune and I remember when it came out, along with a lot of other great music of that era. All of it is free on youtube now.
      I even get a thrill out of The Archies and other bubble-gum hits. My older brother steered me away from that as it was uncool, and that I should be listening to Cream and other hip rock bands who simply lifted most of their work from 50’s era black blues artists. In 1971 he took me to see The Mahavishnu Orchestra and I became a bona-fide jazz snob after that. It all seems tedious and self-absorbed now.
      I really should submit an essay about Bix Beiderbecke.

        1. Sensual, yet wholesome. The girls back then, and probably now, didn’t care that your were supposed to be listening to Spinal Tap and not bubble-gum.
          Disco was an inevitable outcome of early 70s fixation on artsy, though ultimately undanceable, psychedelic and jazz-rock.

      1. People can say what they want about the ’60s, but there was no better time for pop and rock music in my opinion. Great American bands, great British bands, the Motown scene, some decent folk, and even the easy listening hits were outstanding. There are also a lot of great 60s reggae songs, check out Trojan Records collections on iTunes. I’ve always been a fan of the 60s girl groups, particularly the songs produced by Phil Spector. Also some good “world” stuff for lack of a better term – Sergio Mendes, Hugh Masekela, Mina, Celia Cruz (she was more early 70s but great salsa). Good music stands on its own from any era but the 60s was packed with it in my opinion.

        1. There was Ian & Sylvia, and who can forget Herb Alpert in this improbably video, or Bobby Gentry on The Smothers Brothers.
          As for foreign pop, the Khmer had incredible music in the 60s which featured at times Steve Cropper as a studio guitarist, he of “Green Onions” and Blues Brothers fame. It is such a large body of work that I can only provide a random link, though there is a huge amount on youtube now :

        2. The 60’s ushered in what has contributed to the trashing of the country today, but I do agree the music across the board was great.

    3. it goes much further than that… in the Doors JM was a charismatic frontman, excellent lyricist, great singer, and everything he could be as an artist…. but by failing to see his own limitations, by allowing over blown ideas and ‘ego’ to cloud his judgement that he was some kind of uber poet, he simply became nothing more than another loser who died young… that glamorizes and glorifies the accomplishments he did make…. and skips over the fact that he had a few screws loose and couldn’t hold himself together as a professional ‘pop’ music icon and singer…
      had he been alive today, the Doors as a band.. with their frontman intact… could have carried on and taken a mile high shit on McCartney, U2, Rolling Stones etc…. bringing great music, joy, ‘art’, happiness and philosophy to millions of people…
      instead the loser effectively blew his brains out with substance abuse, in a selfish and egoistical attempt to be more than he really was… a great singer song writer with one of the most kick ass bands of the 20th century behind him…..
      same is true of many musicians… as Keith Richards said about Bill Wyman after he left the Stones…. Bill is a great guitarist but he had to find out for himself that is all he is…. same with Slash… in GnR he was a great lead guitarist… his subsequent efforts sucked ass….
      in india a musician is considered higher than a priest…. modern musicians would do well to heed this a little more and realize the sum is usually greater than the parts…. 99% of musicians are better off in a joint endeavor than solo….
      even Jagger was smart enough to figure that out in the 80s….

      1. “but by failing to see his own limitations, by allowing over blown ideas and ‘ego’ to cloud his judgement that he was some kind of uber poet”
        Another guy that checks every box in this category is Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. Awesome rock talent with great lyrics and song writing but when you hear this guy talk about himself he fancies himself the second coming of Shakespeare. ‘The Wall’ is probably the best rock concept album of all time but it’s not exactly ‘Crime and Punishment’.

    4. Anybody who kills himself with booze before he’s even 30 is just a plain idiot. You’ve got to stretch things out and pace yourself so that your liver lasts to at least 70.

  2. I read Morrison’s poetry some years ago and dug it, though his song lyrics are much better and more effective than his poetry.
    Wonder how your article will be received here — most ROK posters are openly contemptuous of the arts and of those with humanities/arts degrees (Morrison had a B.A. in Cinema), though many of the European posters possess a broader spectrum.

    1. There have been other arts related articles here at ROK. A lot focus on history, but also some on painting and photography. But I certainly take this as a compliment seeing as I’m American, albeit been out of the States for a few years now.

      1. Non-STEM. Non-military. Non-labor trades.
        Good article, Reb. I don’t think, though, that humanities/arts degrees have ever been too pragmatic. Nope, most notable (and non-notable) artists haven’t had or needed the parchment.

      1. You’re spot on, Unc. “The Golden Bough” was a big counter-culture read in the 60s. Morrison also cribbed from Cocteau and Celine (“End of the Night”) — to good effect, I might add.

    2. “most ROK posters are openly contemptuous of the arts and of those with humanities/arts degrees ”
      LOL. We are talking about The Doors here not Philip Glass or Yo Yo Ma. Who the fuck doesn’t know about The Doors. If anything I would think ROK readers have better taste in art at least in popular art than the mainstream.
      I don’t even think that statement is true. We hate pretentious entitled women that don’t actually have any talent and take a phony major and want to whole world to kiss her ass just for being alive. See female bloggers and ‘writers’. Being a person that actually aspires and makes art deserves praise.
      Also, everybody loves ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’

      1. You’re off track. My observation was about Rebel’s article about Jim Morrison; it had nothing to do with female bloggers and writers or women at all. For clarification, see my reply to Harland’s question.
        You don’t need to sell the Doors to me. I enjoyed seeing many of their performances. I’ve been an viable oil painter for many years, so I think I know something about the creative process.

  3. great video on Ray in Venice, he should be on that wall with Jim..
    reminds me that it’s the journey that counts in the end.

    1. I suspect Manzarek really was crucial to holding the band together, and probably the only one who was willing to unconditionally tolerate Jim Morrison’s difficult moments.
      Indeed the journey is what is crucial.

  4. Ray Manzarek’s keys were the Doors. You could have put any half decent looking dude mumbling bad “poetry” on the stage and they would have taken off.

    1. I disagree. Ray’s arrangements made the songs come alive, but Robbie wrote the first big hit (“Light My Fire”) and several others (“Touch Me”), and Morrison’s Sinatra-like delivery was extremely compelling and convincing. I don’t see another singer getting the songs across so effectively. It’s not easy to “sell” a song to an audience — one of the reasons Brian Wilson used Mike Love so much in the Beach Boys, even though he, Al and Carl had better voices.

    2. The doors took off because of Jim. Although I’m a huge fan of Manzarek and how he made the music and poetry come alive. But it’s Jim’s antics and ideology that made them who they were.

  5. In my mind Morrison was obsessed with death. Listen to the music and lyrics. The culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll celebrates license and bore that value upon western culture in the 1960’s. The world has never been the same. I too, as a youth, loved the Doors and benefitted from being there during a 60’s resurgence in the pop culture of the late 80’s and early 90’s. But it was and is no answer to anything. Morrison’s life was, among other things, a celebration of death and an attack on western values (Christianity) in particular. The children of the 60’s lived at the juncture where a surplus of commodity and the means of getting it allowed free time, and ever so briefly, the entertainment of fallacy, as truth. It was a beautiful time, I’m sure. Try putting flowers in the barrel of a national guardsman’s rifle today and see what happens.

    1. “It was a beautiful time, I’m sure. Try putting flowers in the barrel of a national guardsman’s rifle today and see what happens.”
      The guardsman would pull the trigger and decorate the pavement with the person’s brains before he could even get the stem in the rifle.

    2. You need to get a broader perspective than your own petty, self righteous, hypocrtical ‘Xtian’ view. Morrison didnt take down the world; he didnt destroy western civilization. He may have just been another puppet for those in power who did.
      Read “Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon” by Dave McGowan it may remove the log from your eye

  6. Jim Morrison was an alpha male with pretty face and a listenable singing voice. That’s all.

  7. If there was something like RoK, Roosh or Trump back then, Morrison might have been exposed to the idea of self-promotion. Print 10k books and sell them at his concerts and then record stores and dispute what “intellectuals” would have thought of his work, a publisher would have thought much of his book sales.
    Talking about self-promotion, check out Ray Mazarek’s The Doors: Myth And Reality on eBay and Amazon and buy a physical copy.

  8. “alrigh alright, hey how many of you people believe in astrology… Yes baby I am a Sagittarius, the most philosophical of all the signs… Anyways I don’t believe in it I think it’s A bunch of bullshit. But I tell you this man, I TELL YOU this I’m gunna get my kick before the shit house goes up in flames”

  9. He achieved male “sex symbol status” which is admirable in itself. Very few men get into that category.

  10. I got into the Doors in the 90s. A few good songs, that’s about it.
    I can’t help but think of Ron Burgundy when Jim Morrison sings.

  11. Ray Manzarek appears to be the genius to me. I’m not saying I can’t appreciate Jim’s words, but I think he coasted by on his looks and charisma maybe. He might have gotten there. I’ve heard worse. I’ve written worse. But he definitely has a magnetism. No gay.

    1. Then why did their artistic caliber drop into nothing after Jim died? The crowds may have left due to the frontman’s antics no longer selling tix. but actual listens to each member’s subsequent MUSIC, ARTISTIC output shows them to be pretty dull and banal- tho the craft was still intact. Jim added the unique “weird” style that is so distinctive and unforgettable all these yrs later. Ultimately, it was the SYNERGY of the team that was so much bigger than each, and transended

  12. Sure. The only reason anyone talks about Morrison’s poetry is because he was a Rock star, so they transpose their own sense of inadequacy by creating a self indulgent myth around some idol. Which is what Morrison did. Indulge himself. Again,Which is why his poetry is unimportant.He paraphrases Nietszche, except it is not about the nature of the universal ‘’s just about Morrison..How many people have actually read his poetry in depth. He’s not Blake, or Eliot, or even Rimbaud. THE MUSIC good. The poetry? inconsequential..There is only one great poet of the late sixties and seventies, and that’s the quintessentially ugly Charles Bukowski:example follows
    HELL ..a lonely place
    he was 65, his wife was 66, had
    Alzheimer’s disease.
    he had cancer of the
    there were
    operations, radiation
    which decayed the bones in his
    which then had to be
    daily he put his wife in
    rubber diapers
    like a
    unable to drive in his
    he had to take a taxi to
    the medical
    had difficulty speaking,
    had to
    write the directions
    on his last visit
    they informed him
    there would be another
    operation: a bit more
    cheek and a bit more
    when he returned
    he changed his wife’s
    put on the tv
    dinners, watched the
    evening news
    then went to the bedroom, got the
    gun, put it to her
    temple, fired.
    she fell to the
    left, he sat upon the
    put the gun into his
    mouth, pulled the
    the shots didn’t arouse
    the neighbors.
    the burning tv dinners
    somebody arrived, pushed
    the door open, saw
    the police arrived and
    went through their
    routine, found
    some items:
    a closed savings
    account and
    a checkbook with a
    balance of
    suicide, they
    in three weeks
    there were two
    new tenants:
    a computer engineer
    and his wife
    who studied
    they looked like another
    upwardly mobile

  13. Jim’s father was the ranking naval officer in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which propelled the US into the Vietnam war. Yes, his dad had a greater historical impact than Jim himself did, in a diametrically opposed field. What are the chances of that happening organically?
    According to Laurel Canyon (L.A. 60’s Music Scene) chronicler Dave McGowan, pretty damn slim.
    tl;dr – the Military/CIA manufactured the hippie/rock movement to sway moderate opinion in support of the Vietnam war.
    Not to say Jim wasn’t talented, though.

  14. The author presumes to make a literary analysis of Jim Morrison’s poetry and says that some people consider his work “dribble”- I think he meant to say drivel. Back to the dictionary old fella, read it cover to cover then start again reading Morrison’s poetry and if you can sort out his anagram of jerk bait scrotum inc without cheating then you will be at the very beginning of understanding the magnitude of his works. Good luck

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