LIFE With the 'Lizard King': Photos of Jim and the Doors, 1968

Jim Morrison, photographed in New York City by LIFE's Yale Joel in 1968. Yale Joel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Jim Morrison, photographed in New York City by LIFE's Yale Joel in 1968. Yale Joel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Reflecting the uncertain, tumultuous era in which it was made, much of the popular music of 1968 was moody, trippy, obtuse — and, perhaps not surprisingly, utterly confounding to most of the men and women who worked at LIFE magazine.

Among the counterculture protagonists the magazine sought to fathom and, perhaps, explain to its millions of (largely older) readers was Jim Morrison, the lyricist and front man for the Doors. For a LIFE feature titled "Wicked Go the Doors: An Adult's Education by the Kings of Acid Rock," the writer Fred Powledge studied Morrison through his lyrics and his notorious onstage antics. But short of being there, at a Doors concert, perhaps pictures — like those in this gallery, made by LIFE's Yale Joel — best illuminate the mojo that came to define the "Lizard King."

After all, love them or hate them, no one denies that the Doors — and especially their riveting leader — left their mark on the rock and roll landscape.

Here, on what would have been Morrison's 71st birthday (Dec. 8, 1943), LIFE.com presents color portraits of the then-24-year-old rocker/poet, plus shots that never ran in the magazine of the Doors playing New York's famed Fillmore East.

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Retrieved on 30 December 2018 from http://time.com/3616899/jim-morrison-and-the-doors-portraits-of-the-lizard-king-1968/

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