Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison-James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky
In death several musicians have become in a sense larger than life. Their recordings, writings and interviews become collector’s items catapulting them to legendary status. A cruel irony in life is that some of the greatest artist and performers to have graced a stage, died a young age before reaching their full potential. James Dean (1931-1955), Tupac Shakur (1971-1996), Janis Joplin (1943-1970), Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) and Jim Morrison (1943-1971) are just a handful of names of talented individuals who rose to fame and were gone before thirty years of age. Morrison, with his band The Doors, had become a sex icon and the poster boy for the anti-establishment movement sweeping across the United States. His death on July 3, 1972 concluded a chaotic life that seemed to get even more bizarre as it continued. Eerily, Morrison joined the group of musicians who died at twenty-seven. Joplin, Hendrix and Brian James of The Rolling Stones all died at the age of twenty-seven. And Morrison’s long-term girlfriend Pamela Courson (1946-1974), also died at the age of twenty-seven. The dark coincidences highlights the fragility of life and its unpredictable nature for we are here one day and sometimes gone the next. In death, Morrison became an even bigger legend and still has millions of adoring fans across the globe. But for all of his wild antics on stage, some of which nearly resulted in his incarceration for an extended-stay, the real Morrison proved to be a mysterious and confusing character as evidenced by this informative and well-researched biography by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky.
Capturing the essence of Morrison is critical for any biography and the authors do an outstanding job of presenting to the reader the real Jim Morrison in all of his glory and infamy. The native of Melbourne, FL, starts off life similar to most all-American kids in the 1940s. But as he matures and makes his way through high-school and college, his life begins to take on its own dynamics which would carry him all the way through to his death in Paris, France. He exemplified living outside the box and seemed to thrive on controversy. While The Doors created musical hits, their leader and singer lived life on a fine line between genius and insanity often dabbling between the two. Through interviews and critical research, Morrison’s most outrageous antics are covered and some are beyond shocking. The demons that he developed during his life take center stage and it is unfathomable to realize that in only twenty-seven years, Morrison had a life that could have spanned several decades. As a rock star he was unable to resist the many temptations faced by stars. His compulsive nature, spirituality and indulgence in excess served as a confluence of factors that nearly pushed the rock icon completely off the deep end.
It will seem absurd and possibly unbelievable that such a talented individual lead a life of severe self-destruction. But Morrison, like other great performers, typically viewed life through a different lens than the average person. Substance abuse has long been a common ailment among the world’s greatest performers. For some it was used to keep things in focus and for others, as an escape from the pressures of stardom and personal struggles they sought to avoid. For Morrison, it may be have been a combination of both or one of the other. The real reasons went with him to the grave and shall never be known. As he rose to fame, he became a force on his own and then no longer belonged to himself. He belonged to the fans who refused to allow him to be anything other than the Jim Morrison who turned out arenas and caused mass riots. For them, he was their icon and The Doors was their band providing a leading voice for social change and the rage against the establishment.
It has been said that death is not the true tragedy in life, what is tragic is what dies in inside of us while we are still alive. Tragically, towards the end of his life, Morrison had begun to come full circle and even began to talk about his parents from whom he remained detached through nearly his entire career. Like a Shakespearean tragedy, Paris became the place where he collided with fate and his life ceased to exist giving birth the eternal legacy of James Douglas Morrison and band known as The Doors. For fans of the pioneering group whose example has been followed by countless others, this is a must read.