You Say It's Your Birthday: The Doors' John Densmore

Blowing out 53 birthday candles today is John Densmore, drummer for the

Doors. Led by the late, great rock-poet Jim Morrison, the Doors are

remembered for such shamanistic, bluesy rock songs as "L.A. Woman,"

"Light My Fire" and "The End." Many of their songs presented a darker

image of the California hippie scene than was the prevailing perception

in the late '60s. Densmore started off playing drums with a band called

the Psychedelic Rangers. He was recruited to join the Doors by organist

Ray Manzarek, with whom he attended a meditation class. Densmore, in

turn, brought in Psychedelic Rangers' guitarist Robbie Krieger. In 1966,

they became the house band at L.A.'s Whisky-A-Go-Go ,but were fired four

months later for performing the Oedipal anthem "The End." By that time,

though, the buzz was pretty hot about the group, and they soon found

themselves signed to Elektra.

The group's self-titled debut hit No. 1 in 1967, as did its single,

"Light My Fire." The Doors quickly became an electrifying presence on

stage and on the radio, releasing hit after hit, all of which featured

music to space out to and Morrison's lyrics to analyze. Morrison's

continual attacks on the American status quo invited continual police

interference when it came to putting on live shows, a trend that

climaxed with Morrison's March 1969 arrest on indecency charges in

Miami. The Doors released their most elaborate recording that year, but

Soft Parade was greeted by jeers of pretension from critics and

"sell-out" from fans. IL.A. Woman was released in 1971, but

Morrison pulled away from the group and moved to Paris soon after its

release. He died of heart failure later that year. Densmore and the two

other remaining members of the Doors recorded as a trio for two years

after Morrison’s death, but quit in the face of public indifference.

When the Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive was

published in 1980, the Doors catalog sales began to pick up again,

introducing the group to a whole new generation. In 1993, the group was

inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Pearl Jam's Eddie

Vedder taking the place of Morrison at the ceremony. Last year, Densmore

and his wife, Leslie Neale, appeared in Argentine playwright Eduardo

Pavlovsky's play "Close (Cerca) " at the Stage's Theater Center in

Hollywood. Earlier this year, the Doors released Box Set, a

collection that features rare and live tracks, as well as "Orange County

Suite," a song that the living members of the group recorded under a

Morrison spoken-word piece.

Other birthdays: Billy Paul, 53; Lou Rawls, 62; Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster

Cult), 53; Gilbert O'Sullivan, 51; Klaaseje Van Der (Shocking Blue), 48;

Steve Jansen (Japan), 38; and Sam Reid (Glass Tiger), 34.