Fifty years after L.A. Woman, where do The Doors rate on the list of the greatest American bands?

1971. Fifty years ago. For the legendary rock band Thee Doors, it was a year of success and tragedy.

Their sixth studio album, L.A. Woman, was released in April.It certified as double platinum in the United States. It sold more than four million copies worldwide. L.A. Woman was their biggest selling album since their self-titled debut record four years earlier.

Less than three months afterward, Jim Morrison died at age twenty-seven. When the voice and the face of a band is no longer there, it’s almost impossible to continue.

Like so many other rock and roll stories, when a musician dies at an early age, you’re left wondering what might have been? Jimi, Janis, Jim and Duane…all gone within a thirteen month period.

Occasionally you’ll hear a rock band mentioned as the or among the greatest American bands. Among the contenders mentioned most often for that title include The Beach Boys, Grateful Dead, Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers Band and Aerosmith.

What about The Doors? Do they rate? If so, where?

When trying to rate a band, what standards do you use? The amount of records made? The quality of those records? Sales? Awards? Live performances? A combination of all of the above?

The Doors were definitely a quality over quantity band. Morrison’s death limited them to those six albums as a foursome. However, all six received good to excellent reviews. You’ll find “The Doors” and “L.A. Woman” on many lists of the greatest all-time albums.

The sales of The Doors albums were excellent. All six of them received at least platinum album certification for selling a minimum of one million records in the United States.

Awards? Not many and what they did receive many years after the breakup of the band. None of their albums or singles received a Grammy, however the band itself was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2001 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. Their songs “Light My Fire” and “Riders on the Storm” also received Grammy Hall of Fame awards. The Doors were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

When it came to their live shows, The Doors prided themselves on their concerts. Not a lot of gimmicks except for the night in Miami when Morrison was charged with indecency, but three musicians who were outstanding on their instruments and the raw vocals of Jim Morrison. Morrison himself said, “We’re much better in person. Our record albums are only a map of our work.” Keyboardist Ray Manzarek added, “People become familiar with us through the album, but it’s when they see us that it all happens.”

So when you add it all up, where does that leave The Doors? It’s certainly subjective but, while they don’t rate at the top of the greatest American bands, they are in the top ten. Not band for a short lived group that ended half a century ago.

Related Post: On the fiftieth anniversary of “At Fillmore East” can you still handle twenty-two minutes of “Whipping Post?”

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