An American Prayer is the ninth and final studio album by the American rock band the Doors. Following the death of Jim Morrison and the band's breakup, the surviving members of the Doors reconvened to set several of Morrison's spoken word recordings to music.[4] It was the only album by the Doors to be nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Spoken Word" category.[5][6]

An American Prayer
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 17, 1978 (1978-11-17)
  • 38:40
  • 46:49 (1995 reissue)
Jim Morrison & the Doors chronology
The Best of The Doors
An American Prayer
Greatest Hits

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek perceived An American Prayer as being divided into five parts, with the first covering Morrison's childhood and the second his high school years; the third concerning "the young poet, stoned on a rooftop with acid dreams." The fourth his musical career and finally the fifth is a "final summation in a way, of the man's entire life and his philosophy."[5]

Background Edit

A 1970 privately printed version of the An American Prayer poetry book

The Doors formed in 1965 and released six studio albums before singer/lyricist Jim Morrison's death in July 1971. The surviving band members (keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore) recorded two additional albums as a trio, but broke up in 1973.[4]

Morrison had originally recorded some of his poetry between 1969 and 1970;[7] the first sessions took place in either Elektra's recording studios or Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, California,[8] while the last recordings were made in Village Recorders, West Los Angeles.[9] These drafts were completed in two stints, first in the spring of 1969, and the other in December 1970.[10] The first session included poems like "Bird of Prey", "Under Waterfall" and "Orange County",[8] sung a cappella by Morrison with the latter cut featuring piano played by him.[11] By January 1971, after the completion of these recordings, Morrison had developed some concepts for the album cover art, and was in correspondence with artist T. E. Breitenbach to design this cover in the form of a triptych.[12] Prior to leaving for Paris in March 1971, Morrison had also approached composer Lalo Schifrin as a possible collaborator on the music to accompany the poetry, instead of the other members of the Doors.[13]

In 1978, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore reunited to record the music for An American Prayer.[7] On November 19, 1978, in the Los Angeles Times, Ray Manzarek explained, "We did this album to show the side of Jim which has been underrated all these years."[5] Morrison's friend Frank Lisciandro served as one of the co-producers of the album, while Pamela Courson's father "Corky" Courson was also involved in the record.[14] According to the book Break on Through, when recording the music, the three Doors members decided to produce a different musical style from Morrison's original vision of orchestral music on the project.[15] Other pieces of music and spoken word recorded by the Doors and Morrison were also used in the audio collage, such as dialogue from Morrison's film HWY: An American Pastoral, snippets from jam sessions,[8] excerpts from interviews,[16] and featuring sections from "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)"[8] and "Riders on the Storm".[9] Densmore devised an early use of synthesized drums for the former.[17]

Artwork Edit

Artist T. E. Breitenbach with The Jim Morrison Triptych that was supposed to be the cover art of An American Prayer.

After Morrison had done his recordings, he asked American artist T. E. Breitenbach to design the cover for the album.[12] He sent him a letter about his suggestions for the concept:

"Try doing a triptych. The left panel depicting a radiant moon-lit beach and an endless stream of young naked couples running silently along the water's edge. On the beach, a tiny infant grins at the universe and around its crib stand several ancient, old people ... The center, a modern city or metropolis of the future at noon, insane with activity ... The last panel, a view through a car windshield at night on a long straight desert highway."[18]

After Morrison's death however, the album's producers were unaware of his intention to use the painting,[19] and used for the front and back cover photos taken by Edmund Teske and Joel Brodsky respectively.[9] The existence of this lost painting collaboration came to light actually decades later, when the artist himself posted it on his website.[18]

Release and reception Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [20]
Christgau's Record GuideC[21]
Entertainment WeeklyC[22]
MusicHound Rock2/5[23]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [25]

An American Prayer was released on November 17, 1978, as "a Jim Morrison Album" with "Music by the Doors".[5] It initially sold approximately 250,000 copies, making it the best-selling spoken word album at the time.[5] According to John Haeny, it later exceeded the one million copies shipped.[27] The album included a composite live version of "Roadhouse Blues", which received some radio airplay on rock radio stations.[28] The album peaked at number 54 on the US charts.[5] It was also nominated for the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.[29]

Despite receiving a RIAA platinum certification in the US, An American Prayer received mixed reviews and still divides critics. When the album was originally released, longtime Doors' producer Paul A. Rothchild castigated it as a "RAPE of Jim Morrison."[30][31] Rothchild claimed that he had heard all of the reels of master tapes from both the 1969 and the 1970 poetry sessions, and insisted that the three remaining Doors failed to realize Morrison's original intent for an audio presentation of the poetry.[30] In a review published in Creem magazine in January 1979, musician Patti Smith felt that the record had some "certain flaws", but commended the fact that it "documents a fragment of the passion of Jim Morrison", adding that, "An American Prayer has been pieced together delicately with obsessive devotion."[32] John Haeny (who recorded the original session tapes with Morrison in 1970) has written in an essay on July 23, 2013, "I want people to understand that this album was made by those people who were closest to Jim, both personally and artistically. Everyone had the best intentions" and that, "I believe Jim would be pleased. Jim would have understood our motivation and appreciated our dedication and heartfelt handling of his work."[27]

In his 1981 review, Robert Christgau rated An American Prayer "C" (which is about average on his scale). He praised the music accompaniment by the surviving members, but criticized Morrison as "a bad poet".[21] Rolling Stone described the record as "intriguing" but "suitable mainly for Morrison fanatics."[25] On the occasion of the 1995 reissue release, Entertainment Weekly journalist David Browne similarly wrote that An American Prayer is "primarily for those who place great weight on Jim Morrison."[22] More recently, Vik Iyengar of AllMusic found the album "interesting", but concluded that it's "not for everyone, but is a must-own for Doors completists and fans of Jim Morrison's poetry."[20] Fellow AllMusic critic Matthew Greenwald in contrast, lauded it as an "excellent and underrated" album.[33] In 2021, Far Out Magazine described it as "astonishing", and that, An American Prayer shows "a side of Morrison that was rarely seen in public, and which is still hugely underrated: his power as a poet."[34]

Track listing Edit

Poetry, lyrics and stories are written and recited by Jim Morrison; the music is composed by Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore. Details are taken from the original 1978 US Elektra Records release.[35]

Side one
  • "Ghost Song"
  • "Dawn's Highway"
  • "Newborn Awakening"
2."To Come of Age":
  • "Black Polished Chrome"
  • "Latino Chrome
  • "Angels and Sailors"
  • "Stoned Immaculate"
    3."The Poets Dream":
  • "The Movie":
  • "Curses, Invocations"
    Total length:19:35
    Side two
    4."The World On Fire":  
    5."An American Prayer":
  • "The End"
  • "Albinoni: Adagio"
    Total length:19:05

    Bonus tracks Edit

    6."Babylon Fading"1:40
    7."Bird of Prey"1:03
    8."The Ghost Song (extended version)" (includes a hidden spoken poetry section at the epilogue.)5:16



    Personnel Edit

    Per the 2018 reissue liner notes:[9]

    The Doors

    Additional personnel


    Charts Edit

    Album Edit

    Chart (1979) Peak
    Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[40] 80
    US Billboard 200[41] 54
    Chart (1995) Peak
    Australian Albums (ARIA)[42] 20
    Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[43] 24
    Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[44] 40
    Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[45] 42
    German Albums (Offizielle Deutsche Charts)[46] 79
    Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[47] 27
    US Billboard 200[48] 1

    Singles Edit

    Year Single Chart Peak
    1995 "The Ghost Song" Australian Singles Chart 48[49]
    1995 "The Ghost Song" UK Singles Chart 98[50]

    Certifications Edit

    Region Certification Certified units/sales
    United States (RIAA)[51] Platinum 1,000,000^

    ^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

    References Edit

    1. ^ Hermann, Andy (September 18, 2001). "The Very Best of the Doors – Review". PopMatters. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
    2. ^ Wall, Mick (October 30, 2014). Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre. UK: Hachette Books. p. 352. ISBN 978-1409151258.
    3. ^ "L.A. Woman (40th Anniversary Editions)". Retrieved January 14, 2012.
    4. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William; Unterberger, Richie. "The Doors – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
    5. ^ a b c d e f Weidman, Richie (October 2011). The Doors FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Kings of Acid Rock. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 418. ISBN 978-1617131141.
    6. ^ Moskowitz, David (2015). The 100 Greatest Bands of All Time: A Guide to the Legends Who Rocked the World. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood. p. 225. ISBN 978-1440803390.
    7. ^ a b "The Doors: An American Prayer". November 27, 2018. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
    8. ^ a b c d Davis, Stephen (2004). Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend. Penguin Books. pp. 324–325. ISBN 1-59240-064-7.
    9. ^ a b c d Lisciandro, Katherine; Weiss, Jeff (2018). An American Prayer (CD booklet). Los Angeles California: Elektra Records. R1 502 / 603497856237.
    10. ^ Far Out staff (March 13, 2021). "Jim Morrison's last known recordings". Far Out. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
    11. ^ Runtagh, Jordan. "Doors' L.A. Woman: 10 Things You Didn't Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
    12. ^ a b Pinkney, Barbara (March 4, 2005). "Artist Thrives by Trying New Forms of Expression". The Business Review. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
    13. ^ Davis, Stephen (2004). Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend. Penguin Books. p. 258. ISBN 1-59240-064-7.
    14. ^ a b Q&A #2 - "Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together" new book. YouTube. July 21, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
    15. ^ Riordan, James; Prochnicky, Jerry (1991). Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison. HarperCollins. p. 496. ISBN 978-0-688-11915-7.
    16. ^ Wall, Mick (October 30, 2014). Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre. UK: Hachette Books. p. 29. ISBN 978-1409151258.
    17. ^ Botnick, Bruce (2007). L.A. Woman (40th Anniversary edition CD booklet). The Doors. Rhino Records. R2-101155.
    18. ^ a b "T.E. Breitenbach Archives: Feature Articles". Retrieved June 4, 2022.
    19. ^ Silva, Rui (2008). Contigo Torno-Me Real. Edições Afrontamento. ISBN 978-972-36-0950-9.
    20. ^ a b Iyengar, Vik. "An American Prayer – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
    21. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 8, 2019 – via
    22. ^ a b Browne, David (May 26, 1995). "An American Prayer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
    23. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel, eds. (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 358. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.
    24. ^ Larkin, Colin (May 27, 2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 763. ISBN 978-0857125958.
    25. ^ a b "The Doors: Album Guide". Archived from the original on January 6, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
    26. ^ "Review: The Doors – An American Prayer". Sputnikmusic. November 29, 2021. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
    27. ^ a b Haeny, John (July 23, 2013). "The Making of Jim Morrision's An American Prayer".
    28. ^ Kurtz, Warren (February 21, 2020) [February 12, 1979]. "Ray Manzarek Interview". Goldmine. Retrieved November 8, 2021. Now a live version of 'Roadhouse Blues' from An American Prayer is back on the radio as a single ...
    29. ^ "Grammy Award Nominees 1980 – Grammy Award Winners 1980". Grammy. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
    30. ^ a b "Bam Interview - Paul Rothchild".
    31. ^ Densmore, John (1990). Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors (1st ed.). New York City: Delacorte Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-385-30033-6.
    32. ^ Smith, Patti (January 1979). "American Prayer (Scream of the Butterfly)". Creem. Retrieved August 28, 2022 – via
    33. ^ Greenwald, Matthew. "The Doors: 'Awake' – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    34. ^ Kemp, Sam (November 25, 2021). "The Unique Doors Album That Reminds Robby Krieger of Jim Morrison". Far Out. Retrieved July 23, 2022.
    35. ^ An American Prayer (Liner notes). The Doors. Elektra Records. 1978. LP labels. 5E-502.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
    36. ^ Lisciandro, Katherine (1995). An American Prayer (CD booklet). The Doors. Canada: Elektra Records. CD-61812.
    37. ^ Bein, Kat (February 7, 2018). "Fatboy Slim's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks". Billboard. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
    38. ^ The Doors Robby Krieger Explains Jim Morrison's Alter Ego (video). Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved March 27, 2021 – via YouTube.
    39. ^ "The Doors Studio Dates & Info". Retrieved August 1, 2022.
    40. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 208. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
    41. ^ "The Doors Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
    42. ^ " – Jim Morrison / The Doors – An American Prayer". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    43. ^ " – Jim Morrison / The Doors – An American Prayer" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    44. ^ " – Jim Morrison / The Doors – An American Prayer" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    45. ^ " – Jim Morrison / The Doors – An American Prayer" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    46. ^ "An American Prayer Chart Peak" (in German). Offizielle Deutsche Charts. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
    47. ^ " – Jim Morrison / The Doors – An American Prayer". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    48. ^ "The Doors Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 8, 2021. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
    49. ^ "Jim Morrison – The Ghost Song". Retrieved August 29, 2022.
    50. ^ "The Ghost Song". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
    51. ^ "American album certifications – The Doors – An American Prayer". Recording Industry Association of America.

    External links Edit