Jim Morrison Toby Goldstein - Essay

Toby Goldstein

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jim Morrison's life was filled with the events of which legends are made. No mere rock singer, he was both godlike and pompous, sensual and piggish, never existing on a middle ground. Seven years have passed since his death, and time is notorious for making what once seemed shattering, merely quaint. An album of accompanied Morrison recitations, some feared, would sound so dated it could tarnish the Doors legacy. But An American Prayer … remains decisive, possessing the ability to operate outside of time while making the listener painfully aware of Morrison's irrevocable departure.

No matter that [Martin Scorsese's] Taxi Driver, Patti Smith and the Son of Sam have all made headlines since Morrison recited these poems on his last birthday in 1970. They only point out how much was learned from the Doors and Jim Morrison, how doomed life casts its unique unhealthy glow. Morrison's epic of plunder and hard-won thrills, "To Come of Age" through "Stoned Immaculate," presages both Scorsese's articulate portraits and Smith's torturous excitement. His "Lament," which is the resolution of his sexual obsessions, needs the discoveries of the past few years to guarantee it serious public acceptance. Ten years ago, Morrison exposed his genitals onstage and was ridiculed. In 1979, he can speak directly about his organ and be understood for his honesty….

To the backing track of "Riders on the Storm," Morrison delivers a quiet, haunting incident of murder, as casually as if it were a phone call. So seamlessly are the two items blended that the old song and unearthed poem combine into some kind of new, immediate creature.

Jim Morrison's tombstone stands in Paris, luring those who fell to his influence. An American Prayer provides a ceremony for mourners and historians alike, the summation of a wild and lonely time. (p. 72)

Toby Goldstein, "Lizard Redux," in Feature (copyright © 1978 Feature Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Peter Knobler), No. 93, February, 1979, p. 72.