(In 2007 the Doors— drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and vocalist Jim Morrison — were honored with The Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award. The following tribute penned by Ben Fong-Torres ran in the GRAMMY Awards program book that year. Manzarek died May 20 at age 74.)
The Doors' Lifetime Achievement Award comes 40 years after the release of their phenomenal first album, which produced "Light My Fire," one of the songs that helped define the Summer of Love.
In their relatively short time — from 1965 to 1971 — as a quartet, with lead vocalist Jim Morrison, guitarist Robby Krieger, drummer John Densmore, and keyboard player Ray Manzarek, the Doors produced six albums, all gold or even shinier. Eight singles made it into the Top 40, and "Hello, I Love You" and "Touch Me" joined "Light My Fire" as Top 10 records.
Morrison is long gone; buried in Père Lachaise in Paris after his death in July 1971. But the Doors have never stopped selling records. In recent years, they've sold more than a million albums annually.
Last year [Ed: in 2006], they began celebrating their 40th anniversary, with a CD/DVD box set, Perception, and a book, The Doors By The Doors.
I wrote that book from interviews with the three surviving Doors, from transcripts of interviews Morrison did (his last one, in early 1971, was with me), and from visits with Doors intimates, including, for the first time, members of Jim's family. One surprise: His father, the Admiral George S. Morrison, and his young brother, Andy, still believe that Jim wasn't much of a singer. "I don't think he'll ever be a Caruso," said the Admiral.
Another revelation: For all the attention on Morrison's erratic, self-destructive behavior, the band remained a band of intelligent, eclectic, adventurous musicians. They resisted rules, trends and, sometimes, even law and order. They were unpredictable, both in the studio and on stage. The result was the kind of rock that means the most, that has impact, that endures. That's why the Doors, at 40, still sound fresh and vital — and still sell records.
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park is one of numerous contemporary musicians who appear in the book, testifying to the band's legacy. "The Doors," he wrote in a foreword, "will always relate to the youth of any era. I'd be willing to bet that 20 years from now, the Doors will be bigger than they ever were before."
(Ben Fong-Torres, former senior editor at Rolling Stone, is the author of The Doors By The Doors, Eagles: Taking It To The Limit and Willin': The Story Of Little Feat.)