Even by the 1960s' break-the-mold musical standards, the Doors were considered sui generis — a home-grown Los Angeles band whose organ-rich, Eastern-sounding melodies, combined with lead singer Jim Morrison's vicious but poetic lyrics and undeniable stage presence, captured the growing alienation of an entire generation.
At the center of the band's appeal was Morrison, the pouty, drug-ingesting "Lizard King" who became something of the Prince of Darkness in an era that did not lack for antiheroes.
A voracious reader, Morrison — whom many have described as "brilliant" and "a genius" — spent two years at a junior college in St. Petersburg, Fla. He then made his way to UCLA, where he studied film, wrote poetry, ingested lots of drugs — acid was a favorite — and, after graduation, took to living on the beach at Venice.
It was there that Morrison bumped into fellow film school graduate — and keyboardist — Ray Manzarek. Manzarek was impressed when Morrison sang for him the lyrics to a song he'd written called "Moonlight Drive." ("Let's swim to the moon/Let's climb through the tide/Penetrate the evening/That the city sleeps to hide.")
Manzarek and Morrison formed a group, bringing in guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, both of whom Manzarek had met at a meditation center.
From the beginning, the college-educated Doors stood out as a group of innovation and eerie magnetism with their mix of music, poetry, theater and daring. The Doors' hits—including "Light My Fire," "Hello, I Love You" (both of which made No. 1), "Touch Me," "Love Her Madly," "People Are Strange" and "Riders on the Storm"—remain benchmarks of the era.
From their first album—"The Doors" in 1967—to their last, "L.A. Woman" four years later, the band's raspy mysticism and intellectual lyricism embodied the dark side of the '60s.