The Best of Jim Morrison, Dead 40 Years Ago Today

Jim Morrison performs live on stage at the Kongresshalle on September 14, 1968 in Frankfurt, West Germany. Photo by Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images.
Jim Morrison performs live on stage at the Kongresshalle on September 14, 1968 in Frankfurt, West Germany. Photo by Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY CLAIRE SUDDATH AND PUBLISHED BY TIME.COM ON JULY 3, 2011.

On July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison died of heart failure in his Paris bathtub. The sultry poet, musician and leather pants aficionado lived for only 27 years (which, eerily, is also how long Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix lived)—and he spent just a handful of those making music with the Doors—but he had a profound effect on rock ‘n’ roll that is still felt today.

Morrison was a passionate artist who often spoke of a higher, spiritual existence but who tended to stumble through life—and concerts—in an alcohol-induced haze. He was arrested several times: in Florida for public drunkenness and larceny in 1963; in Connecticut for public obscenity during a concert in 1967; in Las Vegas for drunkenness in 1968; in Arizona for drunk and disorderly conduct on an airplane in 1968; and in Florida (again) for allegedly exposing himself on stage during a Miami concert in 1969. But somehow, this beautiful mess of a man managed to pen dark, visceral songs about—actually, sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what they were about.

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