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The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial by John Densmore

    Legendary drummer and founding member of The Doors John Densmore unpacks the intersection of art and commerce in this deeply principled middle finger to greed

    Akashic Books is set to release “The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial” by John Densmore, and this book has certainly piqued my interest. I have always been curious about the details of Densmore’s legal battle with his former bandmates, which seemed to stem from greed. With this fresh account of his intentions, my perspective on his stance has evolved.

    As for the Doors’ legacy, it raises questions about whether this book signifies the definitive conclusion of their story or if it marks the beginning of a new chapter. Perhaps this release will shed new light on the band’s history and provide insights into the dynamics that defined their legacy. Either way, it’s an intriguing development for fans of The Doors and those interested in the behind-the-scenes drama of the music industry.

    As a devoted fan of The Doors for many years, I couldn’t help but be intrigued when I first heard about Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger‘s plans to form with Ian Astbury from The Cult a new version of The Doors. It was like the promise of sweet music to my ears. Astbury seemed like a logical choice to step into the shoes left vacant by the irreplaceable Jim Morrison, or at least, that’s what I initially thought. However, this reunion faced a formidable roadblock in the form of John Densmore, who vehemently opposed it. He insisted that the surviving members of the band could call themselves anything they wanted, but one thing they couldn’t lay claim to was the name “The Doors.”

    Densmore’s unwavering stance perplexed me at the time, as he didn’t strike me as the primary guardian of Morrison’s legacy, especially if one were to believe the accounts of Danny Sugerman‘s book “No One Here Gets Out Alive” and other writers who chronicled the group’s history. Ray Manzarek always portrayed himself as the de facto leader of the three remaining Doors.

    Densmore appeared somewhat distant within the band and, to some extent, seemingly less invested than his counterparts. His fierce legal battle against his former bandmates came across as selfish to many fans, including myself. However, as the years passed, my perspective on John Densmore began to evolve, particularly in light of his endeavors as an author. It became evident that his motivations went beyond mere self-interest; perhaps he genuinely believed in preserving the integrity of The Doors’ legacy. I think he made the right choice.

    In response to their legal restrictions, Ray Manzarek and Bobby Krieger decided to form a group called “THE DOORS OF THE 21ST CENTURY,” an endeavor that struck many as an anomaly at best. It seemed like Manzarek and Krieger were compelled to channel their musical talents and reconnect with what had once made them household names with the help of Ian Astbury.

    However, the reality was that the surviving members, sans Jim Morrison, struggled to ascend to the same heights of success since his death. They were, in a sense, the hinges on the door, but they could never fully replicate the magic of The Doors without their charismatic frontman. Surprisingly, they even enjoyed more commercial success with Morrison’s absence, which further underscored the irreplaceable void he left in the band.

    Renowned for his status as both a best-selling author and the iconic drummer of The Doors, John Densmore delves deeply into a thought-provoking examination of what he refers to as the “greed gene.” This intrinsic aspect of the human psyche possesses the uncanny ability to drive us relentlessly toward the pursuit of greater wealth, oftentimes without regard for the erosion of our core principles, the erosion of cherished friendships, or even the deterioration of our society’s well-being. Densmore masterfully unfolds an enthralling narrative, chronicling the gripping legal battle that unfolded in an effort to wrest control of The Doors’ artistic destiny from the clutches of financial interests.

    In this captivating saga, he unveils the profound clash between artistic integrity and financial gain, shedding light on the profound implications of such battles within the realm of music and beyond. Through his keen insights, Densmore invites readers to contemplate the complex interplay between ambition, artistry, and the enduring quest for material wealth, providing a poignant and timely reflection on the human condition.

    “There are some of us out there who still have principles and cannot be bought. John Densmore is one of them. He is not for sale and that is his gift to us.”
    Tom Waits

    “When you read in these pages about the difficulties in communication suffered by and between surviving band members, you become witness to something very similar to the grief and heartbreak felt by parents who have lost a young child. It wasn’t just Jim Morrison that they lost, but their kid, their band, The Doors. Though it’s something I don’t like to think about, there will come a time when I will be a Dead Rock Star. I can only hope that in my inevitable absence, there will be someone with the integrity and principled behavior of Mr. Densmore looking after whatever legacy our group may leave behind.”
    —Eddie Vedder

    In recent years, artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Stevie Nicks have sold their songs or recording rights for astronomical amounts of money—Bruce Springsteen did so to the tune of a reported $500+ million. Conversely, Patti Smith wrote in Just Kids: “We feared that the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation. We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands.”  

    Primary Wave Music, an independent publisher acquired the rights to guitarist Robby Krieger and the late keyboardist Ray Manzarek, encompassing the entire Doors music publishing catalog. Additionally, Primary Wave Music now possesses the rights to all of the Doors’ recordings, as well as control over their trademarks, merchandise rights, and income. It is important to note, however, that this acquisition does not encompass the interests of the late Jim Morrison estate and drummer John Densmore.

    The Doors continue to attract new generations of fans, with more than one hundred million albums sold worldwide and counting, and nearly twenty million followers on the band’s social media accounts. As such, Densmore occupies a rarified space in popular culture. He’s beloved by artists across the decades for his fierce, uncompromising dedication to art. His writing consistently earns accolades and has appeared in a range of publications such as the Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone. As his friend and American novelist Tom Robbins recently advised him, “If you keep writing like this, I’ll have to get a drum set.”

    John Densmore is the drummer for the legendary rock band The Doors who have sold over a hundred million albums worldwide. In 1993, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and since then, he has earned a Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to his two books, the best-selling Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison & The Doors and The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists), his writing has also been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, the Nation, and Chicago Tribune, among others. He lives in Los Angeles.

    Tony M.