Today, over 40 years after the fact, Jim Morrison was posthumously pardon by Florida’s Clemency Board after being pushed on the matter by outgoing Governor and Board member Charlie Crist. At the hearing, Crist called the convictions a “blot” on the record of an acomplished artist for “something he may or may not have done.”
But the story actually started before the questionable incident for which he was convicted.
In the 1960s, during the Nixon years, there was a long pattern of Washington monitoring musicians and artists. As the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act have made formerly classified documents public, it’s been revealed that the Bureau kept dossiers on Morrison, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Pete Seeger and Mama Cass Elliot, to name a few. Even Liberace had a file.
By 1968, Jim Morrison had already amassed an 80-page FBI file, including reports of 10 arrests (mostly for vagrancy and being drunk). Of particular note was his “lewd and obscene performance” at a Doors concert in New Haven. Surrounded by local police as security, Morrison improvised a story about a cop who maced him. Writhing at the microphone, he began to shout, “The whole f—ing world hates me!” The police switched on the auditorium lights. Morrison rallied the crowd to get the lights turned off. And then he was arrested, right on stage.
But it was a March 4, 1969 report from the FBI’s Miami office to J. Edgar Hoover that nearly sent Morrison to prison. An account of a concert by the Doors at the Dinner Key Auditorium says: “He pulled out all stops in an effort to provoke chaos among a huge crowd of young people. Morrison’s program lasted one hour, during which time he sang one song and for the remainder he grunted, groaned, gyrated and gestured along with inflammatory remarks. He screamed obscenities and exposed himself … ”
This was the infamous “Do you want to see my c–k?” incident, with Morrison allegedly pulling down his leather trousers to introduce the crowd to little Jim. To this day, his fellow band members don’t believe that he actually exposed himself, instead saying he bunched up his shirt tail and waved it in front of his crotch.
Did the FBI make up the story so they’d have reason to charge Morrison?
Morrison was appealing the conviction when he died in Paris on July 3, 1971.
—From Performing Songwriter’s Dangerous Liaisons: FBI Files of Musicians, by Bill DeMain
Category: Best of PS