In 1965, after graduating from UCLA, Morrison led a Bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach. Photographer Joel Brodsky took a series of black-and-white photos of Morrison. Known as "The Young Lion" photo session, the pictures included the shot that was later featured on the Best of the Doors LP cover.
Morrison and fellow UCLA student Ray Manzarek were the first two members of The Doors. Shortly thereafter, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger joined. Krieger auditioned at Densmore's recommendation, and was then added to the lineup.
While it is widely believed that the Doors took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception (a reference to the 'unlocking' of 'doors' to perception through psychedelic drug use), Huxley's own title was a quote from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which Blake wrote that "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."
In June 1966, at the famed Whisky-A-Go-Go, The Doors were the opening act for the Northern Irish group Them, whose leader was Van Morrison. According to Manzarek, in his book, Light My Fire, "Jim was transfixed by Van. He studied his every move. He put the eye on him and he absorbed....The last night... saw us all in a monster jam session...Jim Morrison and Van Morrison onstage at the same time! And singing 'Gloria.'"
Although Morrison is known as the lyricist for the group, Krieger also made significant lyrical contributions, writing or co-writing some of the group's biggest hits, including "Light My Fire," "Love Me Two Times," "Love Her Madly" and "Touch Me."
Decades before music videos became commonplace, Morrison and The Doors produced a promotional film for "Break On Through", which was to be their first single release. The video featured the four members of the group playing the song on a darkened set with alternating views and close-ups of the performers while Morrison lip-synced the lyrics. Morrison and The Doors continued to make music videos, including "The Unknown Soldier", "Moonlight Drive", and "People Are Strange".
The Doors achieved national recognition after signing with Elektra Records in 1967. The single "Light My Fire" eventually reached number one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Later, The Doors appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety series that had introduced The Beatles and a young, wriggling Elvis Presley to the nation. Ed Sullivan requested two songs from The Doors for the show, "People are Strange", and "Light My Fire". The censors insisted that they change the lyrics of "Light My Fire" from "Girl we couldn't get much higher" to "Girl we couldn't get much better." This was reportedly due to what could be perceived as a reference to drugs in the original lyric. Giving assurances of compliance to Sullivan, Morrison then proceeded to sing the song with the original lyrics anyway. He later said that he had simply forgotten to make the change. This infuriated Sullivan so much that he refused to shake their hands after their performance. They were never invited back.
By the release of their second album, Strange Days, The Doors had become one of the most popular rock bands in the United States. Their blend of blues and rock tinged with psychedelia included a number of original songs and distinctive cover versions, such as the memorable rendition of "Alabama Song", from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's operetta, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The band also performed a number of extended concept works, including the songs "The End", "When The Music's Over", and "Celebration of the Lizard".
In 1968, The Doors released their third studio LP, Waiting for the Sun. Their fourth LP, The Soft Parade, was released in 1969. It was the first album where the individual band members were given credit on the inner-sleeve for the songs they had written.
After this, Morrison started to show up for recording sessions inebriated (he can be heard hiccuping on the song "Five To One"). He was also frequently late for live performances. As a result, the band would play instrumental music or force Manzarek to take on the singing duties.
By 1969, the formerly svelte singer gained weight, grew a beard, and began dressing more casually - abandoning the leather pants and concho belts for slacks, jeans and T-shirts.
During a 1969 concert at The Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, Morrison attempted to spark a riot in the audience. He failed, but a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Dade County Police department three days later for indecent exposure. Consequently, many of The Doors' scheduled concerts were canceled. In the years following the incident, Morrison has been exonerated. In 2007 Florida Governor Charlie Crist suggested the possibility of a posthumous pardon for Morrison.
Following The Soft Parade, The Doors released the Morrison Hotel LP. After a lengthy break, the group reconvened in October 1970 to record their last LP with Morrison, L.A. Woman. Shortly after the recording sessions for the album began, producer Paul A. Rothchild -- who had overseen all their previous recordings -- left the project. Engineer Bruce Botnick took over as producer.