Daily Archives: July 2, 2010

Break On Through (To the Other Side): How Jim Morrison Became a Marketing Tool for 1960’s Hippie Counter Culture in America


Alex Young Writes About Jim Morrison – Photo Courtesy of i2.r7.com

Alex Young - July 2, 2010

This is the second installment in an eight-part series by Alex Young – Graduate of the University of Guelph-Humber

By Alex Young

Review of Literature

The lyrics used in this thesis span over the entire catalogue of Morrison’s career as the lead singer of the Doors and are not from one specific era or period within his music.

The lyrics have been used as examples to demonstrate Morrison’s political and spiritual beliefs are from the songs “The Soft Parade” featured on the album of the same name released in 1969, and the song “Unknown Soldier” from the 1968 album Waiting for the Sun. Both of these albums were released on Elektra Records and these songs are key points Morrison used to speak to his audience about his individual beliefs on issues such as religion and war. The lyrics within the music of the Doors are one of the primary examples of how Morrison spoke to his audience and his audience used his music to represent their own spiritual and political beliefs to others through symbols in the mainstream media. The music of the Doors also relates to the individual intellectual and emotional reaction people could have within the context of a certain time period in relation to a specific set of issues during the late nineteen sixties in America. By using Jim Morrison’s lyrics as a symbol, members of the Doors audience could get other people to take up a particular system of beliefs to oppose the ones presented by the government and religious organizations within America at the time by playing on their emotions.

The scripture On the Governance of Rulers was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas, a twelfth-century theological philosopher and one of the most highly regarded thinkers in the history of Christianity. On the Governance of Rulers focuses on the relationship people have with the society they live in and how they participate and create a role for themselves within that society while integrating their relationship with God into their daily life. Aquinas goes deeper than religion in his writing by exploring ideas of individual behavior within a crowd and an even larger context by looking at the moral impact someone’s individual decisions can have on the society they live in. Although Aquinas uses God as the primary example and Christianity as the vehicle through which God communicates with his followers, anyone reading this scripture could easily apply these ideas to relate to the leaders they have in other aspects of society other than religion, including politics, education, and the arts. Aquinas also looks at how societies select and obey their leaders by analyzing how Christians obey God on Earth. As an example, even though God is not a human being, Aquinas observes how Christians use the Bible to observe the words of God and live by them like the spiritual law. By observing how humans perceive leadership and power is a major theme within the subject of this thesis. Based on the connections one could make between Aquinas’ ideas on how cultures connect with their leaders as symbols of their faith to show others what they believe in and reveal their cultures ideas of what their leader means to their culture. Aquinas’ portrayal of how Christians use their faith in God to combat evil in their everyday lives and represent their moral and religious beliefs relates to how the hippies use Jim Morrison to symbolize their spiritual and political ideologies. On the Governance of Rulers is based in a much more historical context of the time period it was written in, but addresses rudimentary fundamental concepts of how people perceive power through symbolism. The essential focus of Aquinas’s writing is how people use symbols to represent their ideas and beliefs to people of the society they are a part of.

The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture is a comprehensive view of the power and persuasion that people who are recognized as symbols of rebellion and what is considered “cool” for going against within mainstream commercial culture. The book is written by Joseph Heath who teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto and Andrew Potter who is a research consultant at the University of Montreal. Heath and Potter give a scathing overview of the twentieth-century popular culture by subject rather than through a timeline that effectively covers a lot of material quickly while using relevant examples throughout history to prove their point. The authors reveal how people that are seen as symbols of countercultural groups are just as easy to co-opt into the mainstream media as any other product or image. Companies create a niche market and use these leaders of countercultural groups as marketing tools to cater to their audience with consumer products rather than ads or slogans. Heath and Potter show that many of these symbols operate within the media based on the fact that they are marketed as rebellious against authority. But in reality, these symbols are used to create consumers out of countercultural groups rather than let these symbols inspire or support any form of actual rebellion. Heath and Potter make the astute observation that there really is no mainstream or underground media because everything that exists within the media is an intricate web of interconnected symbols that form a collage of our culture. Media and their audiences are linked together regardless of how popular something is or how someone may be through the origins of the ideas being put forward within the programming. This book is relevant because it discusses the idea that when anyone buying into a concept or symbol of a particular idea or subculture, they are giving up their own beliefs to follow someone else. Since members of counterculture groups are representing their beliefs through symbols in the media they actually have no control over what the symbols say or how it reflects on them through the individual and subjective interpretation of others.

The book, This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, is written by Daniel J. Levitin is about how the brain identifies certain emotions and reacts to certain forms of music. Levitin is a neuroscientist that’s the head of the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Quebec, Canada that also holds the position of The James McGill chair and the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communications. As an expert in science that has paired his ambitions with an intense, interesting and inspiring love of music of all styles and genres, Levitin has created himself to be a great author on the subject of how human beings cognitively and emotionally connect with music. Levitin impressively marries his knowledge of science, neurology, and music together without being pretentious and too technical while discussing rhythm, harmony, emotional reactions to music, how the brain activates itself while listening to music and how humans organize their thoughts while experiencing music. This book is relevant because it scientifically reveals the links of human cognition between how someone’s thought process and emotional reactions change to certain music. The music of the Doors allowed its audience to explore and discuss ideas of spirituality, politics, philosophy, and individualism through popular music. Members of the audience could use the music as a rallying point by emotionally identifying and responding to particular issues and events happening within the context of American life in the 1960’s such as freeing themselves from capitalism and conservative family values and the Vietnam War. This is Your Brain on Music explores how people feel when they hear music on intellectual and emotional levels. The book explores how people have used Jim Morrison’s music as a way to preserve the spiritual and political values of American hippy culture in 1960’s and how companies use it as a marketing tool to create profit.

The book, “Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend” by best-selling rock and roll biographer Stephen Davis. Davis is a writer that has been revered by some of the artists he has written biographies about including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Fleetwood Mac, each of them appearing on the New York Times best-seller list. “Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend” is seen as the ideal objective resource of Morrison’s life that closely follows facts and interviews provided by the members of the Doors along with other people that associated themselves with Morrison. The book is very detailed and remains very objective throughout without relying on rumors, hype or indulgent sentimentality, and portrays Morrison as a complex human being with a wide range of moods and behavior. If this book were to be translated into a film it would be a documentary rather than the fictional Hollywood romp Oliver Stone is responsible for. The book has a focus on how he tried to help his audience “break on through the doors of perception, set themselves free from robotic familial conditioning, to seek a higher, more aware consciousness”.

The book “No One Here Gets Out Alive” written by Danny Sugerman and Jerry Hopkins is a best-selling biography of Jim Morrison that was published in 1980 by Warner Books and is one of the primary texts on the life of Jim Morrison in the mainstream media. Since the book is so popular having spent over nine months on national bestseller lists across America upon its initial release in 1980, it has created a reputation for itself as one of the leading biographical resources on Jim Morrison for twenty-nine years now. Because of the book’s popularity, one would naturally need it as an essential source of information on how Jim Morrison represented through mainstream media as an icon in popular culture and how his audiences perceive him. The authors had a personal and professional relationship at one point or another in their careers considering Hopkins’ first best-selling biography “ELVIS” on the life of Elvis Presley was inspired to take on the task of writing a biographical book by Morrison himself. Sugerman worked as a personal aide to the Doors and clearly knew Morrison throughout his career and creates a sense of personal attachment and identity to the band’s music as a fan as well as working with the group. “No One Here Gets Out Alive” is a vital resource in observing how Jim Morrison is represented to his audience considering the popularity of its readership the depth of its observation into Morrison as an individual, a performer and an icon to hippie subculture in America throughout the 1960’s.

“By the Numbers: The Top-Earning Estates” is an article that by David Browne that was published in Rolling Stone Magazine that outlines the amount of money made in 2008 the highest grossing estates of dead musicians. David Browne is a regular contributor to Rolling Stone Magazine and this article appears in the magazine’s 1074th issue. The Morrison estate ranks as the third highest estate on the list having grossed $10 million in 2008 alone only to be outranked by Tupac Shakur’s estate which grossed $15 million and Elvis Presley’s estate which earned $52 million that year. Browne’s article discusses how the families of dead rock stars like the Marley family are expanding the amount of merchandise they are producing by investing in Bob Marley brand coffee and video games. This article offers crucial insight into how exactly the symbols of subcultures are used as marketing tools to create products and allow others to commercialize how they are represented to their fans. These products encourage consumer culture rather than preserving any form of ideas that they expressed through their music and how they are perceived to represent a particular set of beliefs among their fans. Creating products that use the symbolic power of these

The online article discussing “Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” was taken from the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine that charts the most financially successful and musically influential albums throughout the history of popular culture. The record sales for the Doors’ debut album is revealed in this article on the subject of influential music. The short article also discusses the influence the album had on the career of the Doors and its audience by interviewing the drummer for the band, John Densmore, and discussing what methods the band employed to write the music for their debut album. One key point the article vividly illustrates is how the band’s guitarist Robbie Krieger wrote the band’s biggest hit single on the album “Light My Fire” after Morrison urged everyone in the band to employ the use of universal imagery within the lyrics. This article reveals one of Morrison’s writing techniques when it comes to constructing imagery within his lyrics which is how he attracted music fans to his music and to discuss issues such as individualism, his spiritual beliefs and political ideologies later on in his career.

The official website for PBS provides in-depth content that presents historical information on the history of American political activities related Vietnam, including the war they waged with the Vietnamese and its influence on the American military and American politics. The “American Experience” section of the site provides a chronological timeline to look at the historical events that lead up to the war in Vietnam, how the war progressed and the effects it’s had on the social and political landscapes of American life from 1945 until 1991. Since the lyrics to the song “Unknown Soldier” by the Doors could be framed in a context to speak to American activities in Vietnam, many fans of the Doors could use Morrison’s political stance on the issue to symbolize their own beliefs. The information presented on the PBS website illustrates the impact of the war in Vietnam on life in America during the height of the Doors popularity in the 1960’s and what a large issue this was for the conscience of America and its citizens at that time.

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