Jim Morrison and his father on the bridge of the USS Bon Homme Richard ca. 1964
1966 was a time when sons began open revolt against their fathers. Could there be a more egregious example than Jim Morrison and his father, Admiral George "Steve" Morrison?
Obviously Morrison was a talented lyricist, and together with his looks and charisma (plus three talented musicians) The Doors' success was a no-brainer in hindsight. And yet I've always thought his most interesting material was culled from his pre-fame days: things he had written well before the band gelled in 1965 and honed their act throughout 1966.
Morrison's father is interesting in his own right. He doesn't seem at all like the authoritarian caricature that Oliver Stone portrayed in his fawning homage (surpassed in obsequiousness only by the earlier Danny Sugarman book No One Here Gets Out Alive). Don't get me wrong. I still love much of The Doors' music. But as I get older, it's interesting to consider the whole spectacle in a broader context. And it's also disappointing that people still don't take Bruce Harris' message seriously, that Jim Morrison didn't want to be an idol "because he believed all idols were hollow." To Jim Morrison, the whole spectacle was a theater art project.
My backyard neighbor is the son of retired Navy brass and visits his parents down on Coronado Island. He met Admiral Morrison once before he died in 2008: "a good guy" he told me once. According to this San Diego newspaper account, the elder Morrison still biked around the island until the end, inviting friends to "Steve's Happy Hour."
George Morrison visited his son's grave in 1990 and placed an engraved plaque written in Greek which translated recites:
True to his own genius
I wonder if the son, were he still alive, could have eventually forgiven the father for whatever drove him apart. I wonder if the poet-son could have spared even one poetic phrase for his father.