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43 Years Ago: Jim Morrison Plays Final Show With the Doors

Jim Morrison
Central Press, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Jim Morrison was already in a headlong downward spiral by the time he performed his final show with the Doors. Mired in a losing battle with alcohol, the troubled singer had multiple legal woes hanging over his head when he took the stage at the Warehouse in New Orleans on Dec. 12, 1970. The disastrous performance would bring the group to a screeching halt and prove sadly prophetic for the doomed singer, who had only months to live.

The once-svelte Morrison had carved out a unique niche with his hyper-sexualized stage persona and leather pants, but by 1970 his severe drinking problem had turned him into a sad caricature of his former self — an overweight, bloated alcoholic with a scruffy-looking beard, whose performances sometimes degenerated into wrenching self-parody.

Morrison’s burgeoning problems with alcohol also made him wildly unpredictable as a performer; he was arrested onstage at a gig in New Haven in December 1967, and charged with exposing himself at a concert in Miami on March 1, 1969, causing many venues to ban the Doors outright. The group retreated to the studio to record what would become ‘L.A. Woman,’ and at the New Orleans gig — one of only two scheduled — they debuted several of those new songs, as well as performing their existing hits.

But midway through the set, Morrison began to forget the words to songs, and then tried to compensate by launching into a long, rambling joke that fell flat. The singer was reportedly hanging on to the mic stand for support as the group launched into ‘Light My Fire,’ and during the solos he went and sat down on the drum riser, failing to get up to sing the last verse. Drummer John Densmore finally nudged the recalcitrant singer with his foot, whereupon Morrison went over to the mic stand and repeatedly smashed it into the stage until it splintered, then threw down the mic and abruptly walked off stage, ending the show early.

The other band members had a meeting at which they agreed that the New Orleans show should be their live swan song, since Morrison’s unpredictability — as well as the charges from Miami — made further touring impractical. Morrison participated in the recording sessions for ‘L.A. Woman,’ then went to Paris in March while the rest of the band finished up the mixing sessions. Released in April, the album was a huge hit, spawning such lasting classics as the title song, ‘Love Her Madly’ and ‘Riders on the Storm.’

Sadly, it would also be the group’s final recording with Morrison; the singer was found dead in his bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971.

Next: Rockers Who Died at Age 27

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