The group started in 1965 in Los Angeles, California, after a meeting between UCLA film school graduates Morrison and Manzarek. Morrison sang Manzarek some of his poetry and song lyrics including "Moonlight Drive." Manzarek was already in a band called Rick And The Ravens while Krieger and Densmore were playing with The Psychedelic Rangers, but knew Manzarek from shared meditation instruction. The latter two, along with a female bass player, were rapidly recruited and the band took up a number of club residences first at LA's "London Fog" and later the "Whiskey-A-Go-Go".
To fans of the Doors, the music included socially and politically charged lyrics mostly written by Jim Morrison. The jazz drumming of John Densmore, the swirling keyboards of Ray Manzarek, whose left hand played the parts typically associated with bass guitar, and Robbie Krieger's guitar playing, which showed the influence of flamenco, Indian, the blues and classical music, combined to form a distinctive sound.
The band took their name from a line in a book by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, which was in turn borrowed from a line of poetry by the 18th century artist and poet William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."
The Doors quickly earned a reputation as an entertaining live act. In one known incident, at a 1969 concert in Miami, Florida, Morrison allegedly exposed himself. Misdemeanour and felony charges were brought against Morrison. The misdemeanour charges stuck. The incident remains inconclusive. Jim Morrison said, "I wasted a lot of time with the Miami trial. About a year and a half. But I guess it was a valuable experience because before the trial I had a very unrealistic schoolboy attitude about the American judicial system. My eyes have been opened up a bit."
In 1971, Morrison died in mysterious circumstances while living in Paris, leaving some fans believing that Morrison faked his death in order to escape the spotlight. The remaining Doors continued, Krieger and Manzarek replacing Morrison as singers, and released two more albums, Other Voices and Full Circle. The band was very successful with all four original members.
In late 2002, Manzarek and Krieger revived the Doors, recruiting singer Ian Astbury of The Cult, as well as drummer Ty Dennis and bassist Angelo Barbera, both of the Robbie Krieger Band. The Doors are remembered for shamanistic live performances. Some people of the "establishment" thought that they were just more American rock music rebels. Jim Morrison said "I like any reaction I can get with my music. Just anything to get people to think. I mean if you can get a whole room full of drunk, stoned people to actually wake up and think, you're doing something."
Their ongoing popularity is tallied by continuing sales of their early work.