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The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial


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

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What people are saying…

“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.”
—Tom Waits

“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.”
—Eddie Vedder

The Doors Unhinged is a riveting account of this three-year-long lawsuit and of his fight for Morrison and the Doors’ legacy. Because it contains Densmore’s reflections on the co-opting of 1960s and seventies countercultural music by partnering it with luxury items such as Cadillacs, along with his thoughts on what he calls ‘the greed gene,’ it’s also a compelling personal narrative. Densmore’s telling of the court trial is engrossing and his life becomes an example of how to live with integrity. He never claims to be a hero, and yet at the end of The Doors Unhinged I thought of him as a hero for our times.”
New City Chicago

“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’s music is more important than money. Or perhaps he believes that the more meaningful The Doors’s 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

“The Doors drummer Densmore rockets through his tumultuous six-year lawsuit against former bandmates Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger in this no-holds-barred account . . . Throughout, the author’s initial question—at what point does money cheapen art’s original message?—remains salient, even if he hammers it home a bit repetitively. Devoted fans will be eager to get their hands on this deep dive.”
Publishers Weekly

“Densmore’s concerns about his band’s legacy and its meaning in today’s society are thought-provoking and worth pondering. Also impressive is his continued respect for his former bandmates’ creativity and musicianship, despite the in-fighting, philosophical differences, and court battles. Not a typical rock memoir, but something more interesting to those who want to look past the hit songs and off-stage antics.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Part courtroom drama, part morality tale, The Doors Unhinged reminds us what happens when greed and deception get in the way of teamwork and the creative process.”

“Densmore’s commitment to his principles is evident on every page, and he is unafraid to share the complex emotions he experienced and the painful encounters he had with his longtime bandmate friends. VERDICT Music-fan readers are given a true warts-and-all look inside a legendary band and their shortcomings.”
Library Journal

“Part legal thriller and part parable on the line between artistic integrity and compromise, this book never fails to inform and entertain. John Densmore’s journey into the justice system, carrying the ghost of Jim Morrison with him every step of the way, is a perfect postscript on the spirit and promise of the ‘60s.”
—Michael Connelly, best-selling author of the Harry Bosch novels

“In his new book, legendary drummer John Densmore hammers a fierce yet never spiteful rat-a-tat on that airless gold coffin of the soul: artistic compromise. The spirit of rock and roll was literally on trial, and Densmore’s account is paced like a courtroom thriller.”
—Tom Robbins, author of Still Life with Woodpecker

“This latest book, detailing The Doors coming unhinged is a must-read, thanks to its unsettling account of the ever present war between artistry and commerciality. Densmore has had held onto the utopian viewpoints of the 60s, running contrary to the faceless, corporate rationale of the 21st century music industry. He points out that more and more iconic songwriters, including Dylan and Springsteen, are selling off their catalogues to the highest bidders. So it’s encouraging to see someone like Densmore, still fighting the good fight, against all odds.”
Pop Culture Classics

“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

“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

“[This] fascinating glimpse behind the curtain at the band’s inner workings sits at the heart of Densmore’s latest book The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial.”

“John is a great man, and he has written a very funny book.”
—Randy Newman

“This book is a story about our struggle to keep Jim’s legacy as he wanted it: no selling out to corporate thinking. Jim was an artist who should be remembered for his integrity.”
—Pearl “Penny” Courson, Jim Morrison’s mother-in-law


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’s artistic destiny. In it, Densmore looks at his conflict with his bandmates over the right to use The Doors’s name, revealing the ways in which this struggle mirrors and reflects a much larger societal issue: that no amount of money seems to be enough for even the wealthiest people.

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 rarefied 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 said to him, “If you keep writing like this, I’ll have to get a drum set.”

This is an incredibly timely and important volume in a contemporary world that is increasingly consumed by an insatiable profit motive. John Densmore has given us a blueprint for an approach to life and culture that is not driven by greed.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Published: 11/7/23
  • IBSN: 9781636141572
  • e-IBSN: 9781636141565
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781636141558


JOHN DENSMORE is the drummer for the legendary rock band The Doors, who have sold over a hundred million albums worldwide. In 1993, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and since then, he has earned a Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to his two books, the best-selling Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison & The Doors and The Seekers: Meetings with Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists), his writing has also been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, the Nation, and Chicago Tribune, among others. He lives in Los Angeles. His latest work is The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial.

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