Legendary drummer and founding member of The Doors John Densmore unpacks the intersection of art and commerce in this deeply principled middle finger to greed
"There are some of us out there who still have principles and cannot be bought. John Densmore is one of them. He is not for sale and that is his gift to us."
"When you read in these pages about the difficulties in communication suffered by and between surviving band members, you become witness to something very similar to the grief and heartbreak felt by parents who have lost a young child. It wasn't just Jim Morrison that they lost, but their kid, their band, The Doors. Though it's something I don't like to think about, there will come a time when I will be a Dead Rock Star. I can only hope that in my inevitable absence, there will be someone with the integrity and principled behavior of Mr. Densmore looking after whatever legacy our group may leave behind."
IN THE DOORS: UNHINGED, NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR and legendary Doors drummer John Densmore offers a powerful exploration of the "greed gene"—that part of the human psyche that propels us toward the accumulation of more and more wealth, even at the expense of our principles, friendships, and the well-being of society. This is the gripping account of the legal battle to control The Doors' artistic destiny. In it, Densmore looks at the conflict between his bandmates and him as they fought over the right to use The Doors' name, revealing the ways in which this struggle mirrored and reflected a much larger societal issue: that no amount of money seems to be enough for even the wealthiest people.
In recent years, artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Stevie Nicks have sold their songs or recording rights for astronomical amounts of money—Bruce Springsteen did so to the tune of a reported $500+ million. Conversely, Patti Smith wrote in Just Kids: "We feared that the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation. We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands."
The Doors continue to attract new generations of fans, with more than one hundred million albums sold worldwide and counting, and nearly twenty million followers to the band’s social media accounts. As such, Densmore occupies a rarified space in popular culture. He’s beloved by artists across the decades for his fierce, uncompromising dedication to art. His writing consistently earns accolades and has appeared in a range of publications such as the Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone. As his friend and American novelist Tom Robbins recently advised him, "If you keep writing like this, I'll have to get a drum set."
More Praise for The Doors: Unhinged
"John Densmore's latest book is exceptional. As usual, the writing is excellent but the conflicts he endured in standing up for Jim Morrison long after he left the earth can provide inspiration for all who read the amazing story of what took place behind The Doors."
—Michael Blake, Oscar Award–winning author of Dances with Wolves
"John Densmore has repeatedly protected his band and its legacy under circumstances in which it would have been much easier to simply do nothing—and collect a check in exchange for that passivity. He believes, however, that the continuing meaning of The Doors' music is more important than money. Or perhaps he believes that the more meaningful The Doors' music remains, the more successful it will be. In either case, he has shown great courage and a determination to take the long view and the high road—virtues that are important and all too rare both in the world of rock & roll and well beyond it."
—Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone
"Those of us who were on the bus in the sixties and took that magical and dangerous trip came out of that experience with a code that would guide us for the rest of our lives. The lesson was to live your life as if there were something bigger than your own mortality at stake. That art, for example, gifted by the muse, is bigger than the artists who create it. I am forever grateful to John Densmore, not only for enduring the crucible described in this book, but for never wavering from the code that some of us still hold so dear. Because the music that The Doors created is so important to so many people, its worth is much greater than the sum of its parts; and certainly greater than their commercial success. Because John Densmore believes this, we are all in his debt. Not only for renewing our belief in the transcendent magic of The Doors, but for staying true to the best ideals of our generation."
—Jim Ladd, author of Radio Waves: Life and Revolution on the FM Dial