‘Final 24’: Was Jim Morrison a sociopath? How an eerie incident from childhood shaped The Lizard King's life
Known as The Lizard King and Mr Mojo Risin', Jim Morrison of The Doors had a wild personality. Popularising jazz-blues and hard-rock with songs like 'Graveyard Poem', 'The End', 'When the Music's Over', and 'Celebration of the Lizard', he won hearts of music lovers and was one of the most influential frontmen in rock history.
With Scottish, Irish and English roots, the singer was born in late 1943 in Melbourne, Florida to Clara Virginia and George Stephen Morrison, a rear admiral in the US Navy. He also had a younger sister, Anne Robin and a younger brother, Andrew Lee Morrison. When Morrison was just three or four years old, he witnessed a car accident in the desert and the gory, grim details stayed etched in his memory forever. The incident turned out to be one of the most formative events of his life as one can find repetitive references in poems and in his songs like 'Peace Frog', 'Dawn's Highway', and 'Ghost Song'. Perhaps, the most bizarre aspect of that incident is that his family says it never happened the way he told the tale.
In Morrison's biography, 'No One Here Gets Out Alive' written by the surviving members of The Doors, the incident is described as Morrison's family driving past a car accident on an Indian reservation. Shedding light on how the two accounts were different, the book quotes his father saying, "We went by several Indians. It did make an impression on him [the young James]. He always thought about that crying Indian." Meanwhile, Morrison spoke about "Indians scattered all over the highway, bleeding to death." In the same book, his sister said, "He enjoyed telling that story and exaggerating it. He said he saw a dead Indian by the side of the road, and I don't even know if that's true."
As a new documentary sheds light on the final 24 hours of his life and tragic death, many questions circle around his personality. One that hovers over many minds is: Was Jim Morrison a sociopath?
Influenced by existentialist philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Honoré de Balzac and William S Burroughs, Morrison was always spotted with his nose behind a book. His senior year English teacher said in his biography, "Jim read as much and probably more than any student in class, but everything he read was so offbeat I had another teacher (who was going to the Library of Congress) check to see if the books Jim was reporting on actually existed. I suspected he was making them up, as they were English books on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century demonology. I'd never heard of them, but they existed, and I'm convinced from the paper he wrote that he read them, and the Library of Congress would've been the only source."
In the book 'Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison', Doors producer Paul Rothchild says, "Jim really was two very distinct and different people. A Jekyll and Hyde. When he was sober, he was Jekyll, the most erudite, balanced, friendly kind of guy ... He was Mr. America. When he would start to drink, he'd be okay at first, then, suddenly, he would turn into a maniac. Turn into Hyde."
While he did display uncontrollable emotions, especially when he was under the effect of alcohol or drugs, Morrison was probably just mentally weak and had a low emotional IQ. Calling him a sociopath would be like stretching it a bit too much, but he did lack empathy. He provoked riots at his concerts and didn't seem bothered when people got hurt. At a 1969 concert in Florida, he was accused of exposing his genitals to the audience. The singer had hallmarks of borderline personality disorder and that is why, Sam Harris who worked for Electra records talks about an incident when Morrisson pointed to a glass mirror and said: “I could smash this bottle against this glass mirror and not feel any guilt about it”.
‘Final 24’ airs every Wednesday at 9 pm ET on AXS TV. More weekly episodes will feature the lives of several other iconic celebrities.