His iconic status continues to grow with time, and his death remains the essential episode in his story.
Veteran San Francisco media personality Steve Wagner was co-host, writer, and executive producer of the Bay Area television programs Reel Life and Filmtrip.
Steve has ghostwritten several published books, contributed articles on music, film, and popular culture to numerous publications, and presented lectures and workshops on music, art, and mythology throughout the U.S.
His book All You Need is Myth: The Beatles and Gods of Rock (2019), a study of the classic rock era through the lens of classical mythology, is the product of ten years of research and composition.
As we count down our twelve days of mythic rock archetypes, today we focus on Jim Morrison, the death archetype. Morrison’s fascination with death permeates the music and lyrics of the Doors. Foreboding, funereal, and often frightening, the band sonically expressed their singer’s perilous personal narrative and death-obsessed poetry, while Morrison himself became increasingly unpredictable and hazardous, to himself, his band, and (given his predilection for inciting audiences to riot) his generation at large. Morrison thoughts on the subject certainly imply a relationship far more intimate than that of the average person: “People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah—I guess it is a friend.” Below is an excerpt from All You Need is Myth: The Beatles and the Gods of Rock that explores Jim Morrison, the death archetype of the rock pantheon:
Jim Morrison’s death itself remains one of the most enigmatic episodes of the rock era, forever accentuated by the equally mysterious music of the Doors, which continues to reverberate through popular culture as a reliable aural symbol of dissolution and fatality (such as in the film Apocalypse, Now!, where their song “The End” is used to convey the insanity associated with war and the dreadful mantra of personal obsession). At once an entirely predictable event and yet shrouded in mystery to this day, the questions surrounding Morrison’s demise—the lack of autopsy, the cause of death determined vaguely as “heart failure” (or even the laughable “natural causes”), the persistent urban legends that he faked his own death—have the effect of deepening its significance.
His iconic status continues to grow with time, and his death remains the essential episode in his story, such as when he adorned the cover of Rolling Stone a decade after his passing under the banner: “He’s hot, he’s sexy, and he’s dead.” Though mystery also surrounds the death of Hendrix, it is the sonic frontier he explored, magical abilities as an instrumentalist, and enduring musical influence that define his legacy. For Morrison, it is his death that ultimately makes his music transcend and his mythic role resonate.
Transcending the sense of underlying energy and the point of direct experience that is beyond the physical world, the logic of the brain, and, most frustratingly, language.
Representing the deeper feminine qualities of inner wisdom and intuitive process, concerns of ecology and equality, possession of hidden knowledge, and emphasis on truth and integrity, attributes of countless mythic goddesses of the ancient world.
Everything we experience in our material world is realized and created through a dance with its opposite.