Given that Jim Morrison was the paradigm of a rockstar, The Doors’ legacy often gets boiled down to his on-stage antics and swaggering vocals. And though we love a magnetic frontman as much as anyone else, the group was truly a sum of its parts.
It’s their music that allows their reputation to endure. They were tripped-out, bluesy rockers that loved dark poetry and visceral lyrics. They created the soundtrack for the ’60s counterculture and have continued to inspire long after taking their final bows.
The band managed to make six records before Morrison’s death at age 27. We’ve combed through those six records and found their finest musical moments. Find 10 songs from The Doors that you should revisit, below.
1. “Roadhouse Blues”
The Doors often infused a healthy amount of blues into their jam sessions. In one session, the group set out to make the “ultimate bar song” as a joke. The result is this surprisingly earnest blues track. The opening line has been said to have been inspired by a song Morrison used to sing to his girlfriend while on car rides, Keep your eyes on the road / your hands upon the wheel.
2. “Waiting For The Sun”
Taken from the same album as Roadhouse Blues, “Waiting For The Sun” features far more psychedelia than the first song on this list. The lyrics are about the onerous task of achieving “The American Dream.” This is the strangest life I’ve ever known, Morrison sings.
3. “Break On Through (To The Other Side)”
“Break On Through (To The Other Side)” has that quintessential Doors sound. It’s no secret that Morrison was into his psychics and this track is heavy in references to LSD. Through his drug use, Morrison sings about breaking free from reality and finding new epiphanies – classic Doors stuff.
4. “Light My Fire”
“Light My Fire” was one of the first written by guitarist Robby Krieger. The track broke the group into the charts, landing their first hit. It was first released as a sprawling, seven-minute cut on the group’s self-titled album. After shortening it by more than four minutes, it became a name-making single for the group.
5. “People Are Strange”
In contrast to the blissful nature of the group’s LSD-inspired tracks, “People Are Strange,” stems from Morrison’s struggle with depression. The frontman wrote this one after hiking laurel canyon with Krieger. Drummer John Densmore recalled in his 1991 biography, “His eyes were wild with excitement. ‘I scribbled it down as fast as I could. It felt great to be writing again.’ He looked down at the crumpled paper in his hand and sang the chorus in his haunting blues voice: People are strange / When you’re a stranger / Faces look ugly / When you’re alone.
6. “Love Her Madly”
Krieger and Morrison’s writing styles couldn’t have been more different. Morrison liked to be as poetic as he could be, while Krieger was much more simplistic—which is likely why songs penned by the guitarist tended to play better on the charts. “Love Her Madly” is a Krieger tune, written about his tumultuous marriage. It reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
7. “The Ghost Song”
Released posthumously, “The Ghost Song” sees Morrison recount a poem over a score played by the rest of the band. As the name suggests, the track is haunting both sonically and given the added melancholy of the frontman’s death.
8. “Riders on the Storm”
The last song Morrison ever recorded, “Rider on the Storm” was another Doors song that resulted from a jam session. The band was messing around with a song by Stan Jones titled “Ghost Riders In The Sky” when Morrison suggested the name change. If you listen closely, you can hear the last contribution Morrison made as a rockstar: a dreamy, whisper overdub.
9. “When The Music’s Over”
“When The Music’s Over” was a staple in The Doors’ live show. With an improvised guitar solo from Krieger and an energetic performance from Morrison, you can see how this song would be a crowd-pleaser. A particularly intense moment comes as Morrison belts out, Persian Night! See the Light! Save Us! Jesus! Save Us!”
10. “The End”
Is there any other way to end this list? “The End” closed out many a Doors concert in the ’60s and famously opened Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now. The lyrics are an amalgamation of many jam-style performances at the Whiskey A Go Go nightclub in Los Angeles.
Morrison once said of the song, “It started out as a simple good-bye song… Probably just to a girl, but I see how it could be a goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don’t know. I think it’s sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be.”
Photo of Doors by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images