"This is the end," echoed throughout the Western hemisphere the day the Lizard King passed. His 1971 death would mark the end of an era; an era that celebrated free love, free speech, and free-thinking and would be followed by rising rates of rape, exposed political scandals, and fewer individuals who spoke out against the Vietnam War. Formed in Venice Beach out of chance in 1965 by vocalist Jim Morrison, drummer John Densmore, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and guitarist Robby Krieger, the Doors crafted a new approach to rock 'n' roll orchestrations and defined a new style of rock music.
Taking a name inspired by William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (though some cite Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception), the Doors composed music as a group with Morrison and Krieger creating the lyrics and initial melodies and Densmore and Manzarek providing the rhythms and harmonies, in a process of creation that would have been a novelty in 1960s American music. Assuming the prestigious role of the house band at the Sunset Strip Whiskey a Go Go only a year after their formation, it took little to no time for Elektra Records' president Jac Holzman to catch onto the eccentric act and, only eight days later, to sign them. As fate would have it, the Doors snagged a contract with Elektra Records three days before the Whiskey A Go Go dismissed them for what would be the first of many inebriated-turned-lewd performances to come from Morrison—who during this specific incident improvised the lyrics of "The End", instead reciting his own take on the Greek drama Oedipus Rex.
Recording nearly all the tracks live and in-studio, with several of the songs necessitating only one take, the Doors released their self-titled debut in the first week of 1967. The Doors, greatly anticipated following the release of their promotional film for the breakout hit "Break on Through" (directed by Mark Abramson, and contributing to what would be the birth of music videos two decades later), featured some of their most iconic tracks such as "The Crystal Ship," "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)," "Light My Fire," "Back Door Man," and the just-under-12-minute-song "The End." Placing themselves in a subset of countercultural music with the likes of the Byrds and Jefferson Airplane, "Light My Fire" sold one million copies and reached #1 on the Billboard Charts only seven months after its release. The popularity the Doors enjoyed, following the release of their first album, would continue after they churned out their second LP, Strange Days (1967), which was largely a continuation of their first album in its exploration of acid rock.
While Jim Morrison always situated himself near some "Whiskey Bar," it wasn't until the Doors began brainstorming for their third album, Waiting for the Sun, that Morrison's substance abuse became a hindrance to the group's productivity. Released in July of 1968, Waiting for the Sun became the Doors' first #1 LP and featured a slew of some of the group's most buzzed-about tracks like "Hello, I Love You," "Love Street," and "Spanish Caravan." Immediately following the album's first single's release, "Hello, I Love You," controversy caught up with the Doors (and would continue to, thanks to Morrison's unconventional antics, for the remainder of the Doors' career). Rock critics took notice of the resemblance between the single, "Hello, I Love You," and The Kinks' 1965 hit "All Day and All of the Night," even thought the two sings differ greatly in arrangement and scope. While Krieger denied any charges of plagiarism, citing the Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" as the song's inspiration, the Kinks' frontman Ray Davies filed a lawsuit against the Doors for plagiarism, though the aftermath of Davis' legal action is still debated.
Not surprisingly, Waiting for the Sun saw the Doors' shortest amount of time spent for recording an in-studio album—Morrison barely made it to the studio for the recording, due to his increasing dependence on alcohol. Morrison's dipsomaniacal tendencies became even more problematic when the Doors gathered to record their 1969 album, The Soft Parade. Morrison's disruptive behavior stirred tension within the group and recording costs increased exponentially while Morrison strolled into the studio hours late, if he showed up at all. Though The Soft Parade was a departure from the Doors' previous albums, as it contained horn sections and some of Morrison's most cryptic lyrics (causing it to be deemed "experimental"), the album became the group's fourth hit record and contained their last top ten single, "Touch Me."
Some time in between the releases of the following record, Morrison Hotel, and the Doors' last in-studio album, L.A. Woman (1971), Morrison sat down to record a poetry session on his 27th birthday. This session—which the remaining Doors would craft instrumentals to, before releasing it as An American Prayer: Jim Morrison in 1978—and a bootleg of Morrison's jams with two street musicians he had bumped into while in Paris (which would later be released as The Lost Paris Tapes in 1994) are the last traces of the Lizard King. On July 3rd of 1971, it was announced that Morrison had passed shortly after overdosing on heroin in a Parisian nightclub. With an induction into the "27 Club" (along the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Ron McKernan—all of whom were 27 at the time of their deaths), Jim Morrison was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery on July 7th of 1971.
While the surviving Doors, Krieger, Manzarek, and Densmore, initially considered replacing Morrison with a new singer, the Doors disbanded after Other Voices in 1971 and Full Circle in 1972. The Doors embarked on a tour after the releases of these albums, but it wasn't until 1993 and again in 2001 that the remaining members would reunite—Manzarek, Densmore, and Krieger gathered in '93 for their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in '01 to perform some of the Doors' classic tracks for the Vh1 Storytellers series. Maybe it was because of their gathering for Vh1, maybe it was the constant reminder of their days together as their songs saw a revival in the '90s as music for motion pictures like Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991), Forrest Gump (1994), or The Waterboy (1998), but Manzarek and Krieger reunited, calling their act "The Doors of the 21st Century" in 2002. Krieger and Manzarek's project was short-lived (as both Morrison's family and his long-time girlfriend, Pamela Courson objected to their use of "The Doors," eventually taking legal action to prohibit its use) and the duo now plays under the name "Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors." Manzarek and Kreiger toured in 2009, still playing those "Roadhouse Blues."