Doors drummer John Densmore currently is traveling around the U.S. promoting and signing copies of his new memoir, The Doors: Unhinged -- Jim Morrison's Legacy Goes On Trial. In the book, the 68-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer discusses the legal battle he fought several years ago with his Doors band mates Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger after they launched a new incarnation of the group without his involvement or blessing.
Densmore spoke recently with ABC News Radio about the memoir and the conflicts with Manzarek and Krieger that inspired it.
"The Doors got knocked off their hinges a few years ago for a few years with the concept that Jim Morrison didn't need to be the lead singer, and that doesn't fly," explains Densmore. "The Stones without Mick, that doesn't go, you know. Jim's iconic, and so I had to initiate a legal struggle to straighten that out, and Jim's estate joined me."
In response to Densmore's lawsuit, Manzarek and Krieger countersued him for a jaw-dropping $40 million, claiming that his actions -- including blocking the use of a Doors song in a $15 million Cadillac ad campaign -- had hurt the group financially. As the drummer recounts in his book, Ray and Robby's lawyers tried to bolster their case by painting John as a left-wing radical who had contempt for the U.S.
Densmore says that the "most dramatic" aspect of the legal proceedings was "when I was accused of funding al-Qaeda." He adds, "[It's] comical now, but at the time I felt terrorized. You have a court case where…you don't have a case because there were contracts that said [the Doors members] own the name all together, so you try to character assassinate and make the opponent look crazy."
John points out that the one of the positives things that came out of the trial was getting to know Morrison's father, Steve, whose family sided with Densmore and who testified on behalf of his late son. Densmore says meeting the elder Morrison was a healing event, as Jim had been estranged from his father, a decorated naval officer who'd commanded battleships that fought in the Vietnam war. The Doors, of course, were fervently against the war, while the singer had told the press that his parents were dead. Now, however, more than 30 years later, Jim's dad showed up to defend his son's legacy.
"He said to me, 'Terrible circumstances but it's really great to meet you," recalls Densmore. "And I felt the same."
John and the Morrison estate inevitably emerged victorious. Densmore tells ABC News Radio that the experience had been a frightening one, and he was worried about the potential financial repercussions of losing the lawsuit, but was happy with the outcome.
"The Doors are Ray, Jim, Robby and John, and not Ray, Robby, Fred, Tom and Herman," he declares.
In the wake of the suit, not surprisingly, Densmore's relationship with Manzarek and Krieger became more than a bit strained. However, John closes The Doors: Unhinged with a chapter in which he directs some positive words toward his former band mates.
"I write about how can I not love them for what we created in a garage that became so big," he explains. "And they're my musical brothers, and I wanted them to know that."
Densmore reveals that things are starting to thaw between him and his old musical collaborators. He reports that not only have the lines of communication opened up, but he also says he'll consider performing with Manzarek and Krieger again under the right circumstances.
"We're emailing each other. Healing has begun," he notes. "I'm putting out the idea that maybe if we played together again as a benefit, like Pink Floyd did [at the 2005 Live 8 concert], that would be sweet. Not go on tour -- Jim's not around -- but, that'd be a nice reunion."
Densmore's The Doors: Unhinged book-signing tour, which is stopping mostly at independent record stores, runs through a May 25 appearance at Fingerprints in Long Branch, California. Visit JohnDensmore.com to check out his complete itinerary.
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