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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

July 3, 1971

It's our first Tuesday Timeline entry for the month of July, and this month is going to be featuring FIVE trips back through time. It's not as rare as you may believe, though. Both the months of January and May 2012 have had five Tuesdays before this month. But, I think it's a bit of a cool thing to have five Tuesday Timelines in a month. Besides, statistically, Tuesdays are the days that I have the most page views, so I find it a plus to have as many Tuesdays as possible in a month.

Alas, I am rambling.

It is July 3rd today. It's two days after Canada's birthday, and one day before the American Independence Day, and as it turns out, there have been a lot of events that have happened throughout history on this date. Let's have a look at some of these events.

1608 – Quebec City is founded by Samuel de Champlain

1754 – George Washington surrenders Fort Necessity to French forces

1767 – The oldest Norwegian newspaper, “Adresseavisen” is founded

1819 – America's first savings bank, The Bank of Savings, opens in New York City

1844 – The last of the Great Auks is killed

1848 – Slaves are freed in the Danish West Indies (now called the U.S. Virgin Islands) by Peter von Scholten

1863 – The final day of the Battle of Gettysburg culminates with Pickett's Charge

1884 – Dow Jones publishes first stock average

1886 – Karl Benz unveils prototype for Benz Patent Motorwagen, the first purpose-built automobile

1890 – Idaho is declared the 43rd U.S. State

1938 – Franklin D. Roosevelt lights eternal flame at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial at Gettysburg Battlefield

1952 – Constitution of Puerto Rico approved by U.S. Congress

1969 – Soviet N-1 Rocket completely obliterates its own launchpad in what was called the worst explosion in the history of rocketry

1979 – Jimmy Carter signs first directive for secret aid to opponents of pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, Afghanistan

1988 – U.S. Navy warship USS Vincennes shoots down Iran Air Flight 655 over Persian Gulf, 290 people are killed

1994 – 46 people are killed in separate car crashes in Texas, which prompts the Texas Department of Public Safety to declare July 3, 1994 as the deadliest day in Texas traffic history

Those are just some of the events that have occurred on July 3. Now let's take a look at some of the celebrities who are having a birthday today. Celebrating July 3 birthdays are Gloria Allred, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Cole, Johnny Lee, Dave Barry, Betty Buckley, Jan Smithers, Montel Williams, Aaron Tippin, Stephen Pearcy (Ratt), Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode), Tom Cruise, Hunter Tylo, Thomas Gibson, Yeardley Smith, Connie Nielsen, Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Audra McDonald, Shawnee Smith, Julian Assange, Patrick Wilson, Emma Cunniffe, Andrea Barber, Shane Lynch (Boyzone), Olivia Munn, Justin Torkildsen, and Corey Sevier.

That's quite a huge list, wouldn't you say?

For today's look back through time, I thought we'd take the time to look back on a life that was cut tragically short. And for me, this was a tough task, because as it happens, a lot of famous people died on July 3.

There was former Rolling Stone, Brian Jones, who died July 3, 1969...but I already did an entry on him. I have also done an entry on author Mordecai Richler, who died on July 3, 2001. We also lost soap star Benjamin Hendrickson in 2006, Gilligan's Island star Jim Bakkus in 1989, and even Roy Rogers' horse, Trigger, passed away on this date in 1965.

Today we're going back to a date in which another famous person died. July 3, 1971.

July 3, 1971 was the date that The Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, passed away at the age of 27. And, we'll be talking about that a little bit later in this blog entry.

It really seems hard to picture this now, but if Jim Morrison had lived, he would be 68 years old today. Does that not seem a bit wild to picture? I often wonder what kind of career he would have experienced had he lived? Would he still be relevant in 2012? Would he have disappeared and had a comeback tour? Would The Doors even still be together? All these questions will sadly never get answered.

Jim Morrison was born on December 8, 1943 in the community of Melbourne, Florida. His father was Real Admiral George Stephen Morrison, and his mother was Clara Morrison. When Morrison was just four years old, he allegedly witnessed a deadly car accident which involved an entire family of Native Americans. The incident reportedly left such an impression on Morrison's life that he would eventually use the imagery associated with the accident in some of his future projects. Of course, his family always denied that the incident happened the way that Morrison described, though they did state that they did pass by a car accident and that Jim was visibly upset by it.

As a result of his father serving in the U.S. Navy, Morrison's childhood was filled with a lot of relocating and moving. While he was moving around from school to school, Morrison developed a keen interest in poetry and philosophers. His main focus of study was that of Friedrich Nietzsche, Plutarch, Arthur Rimbaud, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Baudelaire Moliere, and Franz Kafka, amongst others.

He ended up graduating from George Washington High School in 1961, and four years later, he earned a degree through UCLA's film school within the Theater Arts Department of the College of Fine Arts. He opted to skip the graduation ceremony, choosing to have his diploma mailed to him. He then ended up making a few short films both during and after his time in UCLA.

All of this was fine and good, however, It wasn't until the summer of 1965 that Jim Morrison's calling would come.

At the time, Morrison was happily living the bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach. He spent many days and nights on the rooftop of his friend's apartment building, writing poems that would eventually become song lyrics. According to his friend, Dennis Jakobs (who owned the building that Jim was living on top of), he was surviving on a diet of canned beans and LSD (the breakfast of champions). Around this time, Jim Morrison had recruited UCLA student Ray Manzarek to join a project that he was working on...a band that he had wanted to call “The Doors”.

The story behind the creation of “The Doors” is one that many call legendary. Manzarek was lying on Venice Beach one day when he came across Jim Morrison. After they got to talking, and Morrison showed Manzarek some of the poems he wrote, Manzarek was immediately impressed, stating that his poems were perfect “rock group” material. That's how the friendship and partnership between Morrison and Manzarek began. Throw in guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, and you ended up with “The Doors”.

TRIVIA: Would you like to know how the band came up with the band name? It came from the title of a book written by Aldous Huxley (who also wrote the novel “Brave New World”). The book that inspired the band name was “The Doors Of Perception”. The title itself was a reference to the unlocking of doors of perception through psychadelic drug use.

It took a while before people began to take notice of the band, though. In June 1966, “The Doors” were the opening act at the Whisky a Go Go at the last week that Van Morrison and his band, “Them” were playing. That performance would end up shaping Jim's own performance style. He was in awe of Van's stagecraft, his reckless persona, his improvisation of poetry...heck, they almost had similar names to each other. It was almost kismet. On the final night, both bands performed together on the song “Gloria”.

In the beginning of 1967, The Doors signed a recording contract with Elektra Records, and just a few months later, the band released their debut single:

ARTIST: The Doors
SONG: Light My Fire
ALBUM: The Doors
DATE RELEASED: April 24, 1967

And, boy, do I have some trivia about this song. Did you know that when the song was recorded, it clocked in at well over seven minutes in length? But because the single had garnered such a positive response, and fans demanded to hear it on the radio, a radio edit was made without the lengthy instrumental break in the middle of the song.

The success of the song caused the band to appear on several television shows. Their television appearance on “American Bandstand” went off without incident. But when the band appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show...well, let's just say that it was a bit controversial.

When Ed Sullivan invited the band to appear as guests, the agreement was that the band would perform two songs. “People Are Strange”, and “Light My Fire”. However, Sullivan's censors had decided that the original lyrics needed to be changed. Though the song did not contain any obscene language, it did contain alleged references to drug use...particularly with the lyric “Girl, we couldn't get much higher”. The censors wished for the band to sing the line “Girl, we couldn't get much better”. Morrison assured everyone that they would follow the rules, and sing the changed lyric.

That promise lasted a grand total of about six minutes, for when the band appeared on camera to sing, Morrison inserted the original lyric. Needless to say, Sullivan and his staff were not impressed. Morrison was later asked why he made the decision to renege on his promise to the show's staff, and he simply stated that he had forgotten about the change of lyrics once the band approached the stage. Sullivan was reportedly so angry over what had happened that he refused to shake Morrison's hand, nor did he shake the hands of the other band members. Shortly after that, a show producer told the band that they were now banned from the show, and they would never do the show again, to which a defiant Morrison exclaimed that they had already done the show.

Whatever the case, it didn't seem like the gaffe on the Ed Sullivan Show really made a dent in the career of The Doors. Their next few single releases also did well on the charts, and by the time their second album, “Strange Days” was released in September 1967, The Doors had become one of the most recognized and beloved psychadelic rock bands in America. The band would eventually release two more albums in 1968 and 1969.

But as the band's popularity zoomed, Jim Morrison's personal life seemed to spiral out of control. Jim Morrison had always been a heavy drinker and was into the drug scene, but by 1968, his actions caused negative effects within the band. He would often show up for live performances and concert gigs too drunk to even sing coherently. In some cases, he would even show up late, prompting the band to fill the time with instrumentals, or having Manzarek take on lead vocals until Morrison finally showed.

Morrison's physical appearance also changed. Whereas before he was svelte and often performed wearing leather pants, he had gained some weight, grew a beard, and started dressing more in a low-key manner.

On March 1, 1969, Morrison attempted to spark a riot at at concert in Miami, Florida. He ended up failing at his attempt, but was arrested anyway three days later following the infamous “indecent exposure” incident. Of course, drummer John Densmore insisted that Jim Morrison never exposed himself on stage, and that it was a hoax. But, since Jim isn't here to own up to it or deny it, it's hard to say.

It was also reported that although Jim Morrison was in a committed relationship with a woman named Pamela Courson (who encouraged Morrison to continue writing his poetry), he reportedly had flings with several groupies, and was the subject of at least twenty different paternity claims, a claim that Alice Cooper dismissed, stating that he was incredibly devoted to Pam, and that he avoided sexual encounters with other women while he was on the road. Still, their relationship was widely tumultuous, with reports of screaming matches and periodic separation periods.

In March 1971, just months after The Doors released what would end up being their fifth and final album, Jim and Pam relocated to Paris, France. While he was there, he dropped some of the weight he gained, and shaved off his beard. He even jumped into an impromptu studio recording with a couple of American street musicians (although Manzarek referred to the session as nothing more than “drunken gibberish”.

Sadly, this would end up being the last recording that Morrison would ever do. On July 3, 1971, the body of Jim Morrison was found inside a bathtub by Pam. There was no autopsy performed, as the medical examiner deduced that there was no sign of foul play (which under French law was perfectly acceptable). However, due to the lack of an autopsy, the real cause of Morrison's death remains unknown.

Jim Morrison was just 27 years old. And it is here that I bring up the reason why I brought this fact up at the beginning of this entry in addition to right here, right now.

Have you ever heard of something known as the “27 Club”? It's a term that has been used in the music world quite frequently. It's the theory that when a popular musician tragically dies, it will most likely happen sometime immediately following their 27th birthday.

Jim Morrison is just one of these musicians who died at the age of 27...but he certainly wasn't the first, and he definitely wasn't the last. Ironically enough, one of these people who happened to gain admittance into the club was Janis Joplin, who was rumoured to have had an alcohol-fueled affair with Morrison. She passed away in 1970, aged 27. Also dying in 1970 at age 27 was Jimi Hendrix. Brian Jones, of the Rolling Stones, was also 27 when he died, exactly two years before Morrison's death.

More recent examples of the 27 Club inductees include Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in April 1994, and Amy Winehouse, who died of a drug overdose in July 2011 at age 27. Tragically, Pamela Courson would end up dying of a drug overdose a few years after Jim's age 27.

Is this something that young musicians should fear, or is it just a mere coincidence? I'll let you be the judge here, but I tend to believe the latter. While the idea of so many musicians dying at the same age is alarming, it doesn't mean that all musicians will die at that age. Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson both outlived their 27th birthdays, after all.

At any rate, although it has been 41 years since Jim Morrison's death, his legacy continues on. His gravesite in the Parisian Pere Lachaise Cemetery is one of Paris' most visited attractions, and many musicians have covered and sang his classic songs. There was even a biopic film that was released on March 1, 1991 that featured Val Kilmer in the role. I know I have only scratched the surface of Jim Morrison's larger than life presence in this blog entry, but I recommend watching this film to get more information. I liked it, anyway.

So, that's our look back on July 3, 1971. Did it light your fire?

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