Born in 1943, in Melbourne, Florida, Jim Morrison was raised in a military family, moving all over the country during his childhood. His earliest influences were literary rather than musical—he was enamored with the works of French Symbolist poets and the American Beat generation. After brief stints at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater and Florida State University in Tallahassee, Morrison studied film at the University of California, Los Angeles. Upon graduating, he began writing the poetry that would later serve as song lyrics for the Doors.
After forming the Doors with keyboardist Ray Manzarek in 1965, Morrison began to develop his iconic stage persona. He could be wild, out of control and even frightening at times. By the time of the band’s peak stardom in 1968, his persona had been given a name: the Lizard King.
His mystical lyrics combined his early literary influences with a more accessible rock and roll sensibility. While the band played blues-tinged psychedelic grooves, Morrison would incant the lyrics to chart-topping hits like “Light My Fire” and “Hello, I Love You.”
By 1969, the group’s success and constant performances began to take their toll on the singer. That year, he allegedly exposed himself to a crowd in Miami in an attempt to incite a riot. The Dade County Police department brought charges and the ordeal forced the band to cancel many performances through 1970.
During this time, Morrison’s substance abuse problems worsened. Shortly after the release of the Doors’ sixth record in 1971, he was found dead in his apartment at the age of 27.
In his relatively short career, Jim Morrison changed what a rock and roll front man could be. He was the iconic rock star: enigmatic, suggestive, outrageous and dangerous. His influence is singular and pervasive, stretching across different genres and styles.
In 1993, Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the Doors, and in 2010, he was even given a posthumous pardon for the incident in Miami.