Votes for the definitive rock god — Hendrix? Joplin? Mercury? Jagger? Cobain? Yeah, maybe… But there is one rock and roll icon that checked each and every one of the boxes required for musical divine status, and that was Jim Morrison.
What boxes? Mane of hair. Devastating good looks. Extraordinary voice. Enigmatic lyrics. Gifted songwriter. Cool nickname. Multiple arrests. Major drug intake. And, finally, the one box no one should have to tick — a tragically early death.
These pictures, taken by Yale Joel for LIFE Magazine, capture a 24-year-old Morrison at the exact halfway point between the birth of The Doors in 1965 and his own death in 1971. Extraordinarily, it was barely a year since the band’s breakthrough hit of 1967 — “Light My Fire.”
At this point in 1968, The Doors were two albums into their career, and at work on a third, Waiting for the Sun. The band was wildly successful and Morrison had not harmed that success when he was arrested, on stage, for indecency.
His status as rebel-poet was exemplified by the fact he had, by this time, also cut off all contact with his birth family. His father was Admiral Morrison of the U.S. Navy, and, it’s fair to say, was a little at odds with his son’s career choice.
Why the Lizard King? Well, the truth is that when these pictures were taken, he wasn’t. Featured on the sleeve of The Doors next album, Waiting for the Sun, was Morrison’s poem “The Celebration of the Lizard,” which featured the line “I am the Lizard King, I can do anything.” The sobriquet stuck.
Such was the Lizard King’s life. As to his death, Morrison was found in the bath of the apartment that he (temporarily) shared with his partner in Paris. No one knows for sure how he died; no autopsy was carried out.
He was just 27, which is the exact same age of death as Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.