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A Character Study on Jim Morrison


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An attempt at answering "the big 'why'" of highly successful artists being difficult to interact with (personally or through the Artifice)

While much of the entertainment industry has been brought to a halt, or in best case scenario a slow crawl, I think it might be time for some healthy reflection. Understanding human character and mistakes in the past is essential to a further understanding of those today that might be exhibiting similar behavior.

Nobody is foreign to the idea of the poorly behaved rock star. It has now become a stereotype that gets satirized time and time again in the media. However, upon this phonemen morphing into a cliche, there still are plenty of modern examples. As you will come to see much of the issue is undressed mental illness and addiction, but what might be the most detrimental variable is that of hyper intelligence.  This gives the person in question an inherent edge over all others that might be trying to help as they may be masters of manipulation, and seen as highly credible and unquestionable forces. In understanding why certain figures in the public eye act so poorly, it may be prudent to look at one of the most infamous and immortal examples of badly behaved artists– Jim Morrison of The Doors.


Jim Morrison*— too smart for his own good—, managed to dig his own grave by manipulating audiences and band members into letting him have his way— whether it was drugs or performing, Morrison needed a break. Being unusually intelligent for a rock star at the time, he excessively used rhetorical strategies to manipulate an unhappy audience, and other bandmates he did not have a drug problem. Unfortunately, his abnormally high level of intelligence in conjunction with an expert understanding of language manipulation led him to his early death at 27, from a drug overdose.

When playing a show, it is not uncommon for Morrison to be inebriated onstage, as he was at the show he played on March 1, 1969, in Florida, where he almost started a riot in the audience. To cope with this, and to recapture a waning audience, he choreographed his rhetoric in a way that made it possible to gaslight almost an entire audience.  In these instances, Morrison took liberal use of various forms of manipulative rhetoric such as ad-hominem attacks and pathos appeals. 

Morrison screams into the crowd, “Are you ready? Are you readdddyyyy! ARRR yew readyyy!! Are you ready?”  Saying this right after the audience has displayed anger over the lack of music, he captivates their attention with a false sense of hope that he might start singing, when in reality, he just wants their attention so they will remain and listen to him in his often times non-cohesive rants. By this point in the concert, he is taking drinks from the audience because the band has cut him off already.

By the time his questions have worn off, the audience is again outraged so Jim goes and asks the audience, “How long do you think it’s gonna last? How long are you gonna let ‘em push you around? How long?”  Morrison says this to create a scapegoat, so the audience questions if their anger should even be projected towards him. In this, he masterfully directs attention away from himself as the problem, and suggests the idea that “modern society” is the problem. In his question, he is referring to his idea that everyone is oppressed by the “new modern”, or conservative ideals wildly shared by Americans at the time, due to it being the age of Nixon, and the final years divisive Vietnam war. By belittling the audience, and directing their anger away from him and to the “establishment,” Morrison gets the audience to share a common enemy with him, and once again, suppress their anger towards him— classic politics pivot.

In addition to the questions, he uses ad hominem attacks to, once more, direct anger away from him, and to the idea of “modern society”; “You’re all a bunch of Slaves!”, he says, trying to comment on how people are “slaves” to the “modern machine”, that is. He is again, belaboring the idea that our post-war society is being built upon conformity, and uniform beliefs. By uniting him and his audience toward a common enemy, he can direct attention and anger away from himself and his behavior, and in turn, draw awareness to the greatest motif in rock n’ roll—sticking it to the man.

When Morrison finishes insulting his audiences, and his aggressive behavior has lost its charm, he reels his audience back in by using an emotional pathos appeal. When he says,“I’m lonely. I need some love, you all.”  he appeals to the audiences’ emotion by making them feel bad for him. They then, feel bad for booing him, and in turn, try to encourage him so he does not feel “lonely”. Once Morrison realizes they are taking his bait, he says “I want some love-a, love-ah. Ain’t nobody gonna come and love my ass? Come on.”  In turn, all the screaming fans want to make him feel loved, and they instantly forget about the haphazard performance he has been giving. 

Morrison makes the audience feel responsible for his current unhinged state-of-mind with his belligerent comments, and therefore inhibits their ability to dislike him. Thus, the crowd continues to support him, regardless of his behavior.

Jim Morrison was almost too intelligent, in that his intellect and ability to manipulate his audience using rhetoric led to his ultimate demise. He was such a well-articulated rhetorician, he could do anything he wanted including being drunk out of his mind while high as a kite onstage. Anytime fans would object to his conduct, he would manipulate them with rhetoric and briefly change their opinion. This being true, Morrison would never see any faults in his behavior because no one ever successfully confronted him about his drug or alcohol problem; the band never took a direct, monetary decline as a result of his actions, so he continued to drink and use drugs until it killed him. When enhanced intelligence was thrown in the middle of all the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of the 60s, death to the Lizard King was inevitable.  

*Quotes dates and verifiable facts taken from an official detailed biography on Jim Morrison— No One Gets Out Here Alive, By Jerry Hopkins. All other conjectures, implied motives, or suggested mental stability on or about the character discussed in the argument, are the ideas and beliefs of the author (Colby Poston) in response to the facts given in the book mentioned above.



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