The new documentary movie “When You’re Strange” about the rock group The Doors, is also a tale about the devastating effect drugs can have on a single person. The movie depicts the slow albeit inevitable fall of an iconic and unique singer of his time.
We have heard it all before–the mix of rock music and drug abuse. The stories have been told time and again. It is difficult to mention one single musician from the period of the Sixties and Seventies who has not been involved in some kind of drug or alcohol abuse.
Nevertheless, while I was watching the new documentary movie–filled with emotions and nostalgia over the brilliant music and original footage–I was stunned by the unfiltered insight into the lives of these powerful yet vulnerable artists. It is surprisingly easy to put yourself in the shoes of a bold and boisterous Jim Morrison who experience a new found freedom and power with his ability to influence a whole generation with–mere poetry! It is an immensely arduous task to control and use this power in a responsible and constructive way. The void is filled with the easiest solution: drugs and alcohol.
As a group The Doors created awesome quality and quantity of their art in a unique format. Ray Manzarek with his classical Bach inspired approach to the organ playing, Robbie Krieger’s exploding jazz and blues lines on the guitar, John Densmore on drums being the sole guarantee of the rhythm in the loose and experimenting style of the music, over which Jim Morrison would resound his deep voice filled with pathos and mystery.
I shall neither be pedantic or judgmental when I claim that certain episodes could easily have been avoided. The famous “Miami incident” where Jim Morrison ended up being arrested on a doubtful and ridiculous charge of “indecent exposure” would never have happened had the accused been in a less intoxicated state.
As it happens Jim Morrison continued his abuse until his body simply folded and he died in Paris in 1971. The other members of the group who likewise had been taken various substances but stopped in due time and are today very much alive and healthy, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger playing the songs of The Doors at concerts under the name Riders On The Storm.
Other artists tell similar stories–Eric Clapton was not even touching a guitar in a period of heavy drug abuse, Keith Richard reports that he made great records with The Rolling Stones not because of but in spite of the drugs.
It seems to me that nowadays rock musicians have a more ethical and sensible approach to drugs in general. This is also due to many good drug rehab programs such as Narconon being available so it is possible to be a productive and living artist today.