The Unknown Soldier (song)

"The Unknown Soldier" is the first single from the Doors' 1968 album Waiting for the Sun and released in March of that year by Elektra Records. An accompanying 16mm publicity film for the song featuring the band was directed and produced by Edward Dephoure and Mark Abramson. The song became the band's fourth Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remained upon the Billboard Hot 100 list for eight weeks.

"The Unknown Soldier"
The Unknown Soldier - The Doors.jpg
Single by the Doors
from the album Waiting for the Sun
B-side"We Could Be So Good Together"
ReleasedMarch 1968 (1968-03)
RecordedFebruary 1968
StudioTTG Studios, Hollywood, California
Songwriter(s)The Doors
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild
The Doors singles chronology
"Love Me Two Times"
"The Unknown Soldier"
"Hello, I Love You"


The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, which inspired Morrison's lyrics.

"The Unknown Soldier" has been perceived as Jim Morrison's reaction to the Vietnam War and the way that conflict was portrayed in American media at the time.[1] According to author Richie Weidman, Morrison was inspired to write the lyrics after visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the Arlington National Cemetery, on November 25, 1967; the same day in which the band performed at the Hilton Hotel, International Ballroom.[2]

Karl Dallas of Melody Maker formulated that the song is "an apocalyptic piece which seems to sum up the Vietnam-nourished at the centre of American life."[3] Lines such as "Breakfast where the news is read/ Television children fed/ Unborn living, living dead/ Bullets strike the helmet's head", concerned the way news of the war was being presented in the living rooms of ordinary people.[1] The track ends with sounds of crowds cheering and bells tolling, representing an ecstatic celebration of a war being over.[4]

Release and receptionEdit

Chart (1968) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[5] 39 May 1968

The released single was edited in which a different gunshot sound was used and does not include the cheering crowds nor the tolling bells at the end. Reportedly, producer Paul Rothchild was so particular about how the song came out that it ultimately took over 130 takes to finish.[6] Upon completion, the song became the band's fourth Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, and enjoying an 8-week appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 list overall.[7] "We Could Be So Good Together" served as the B-side. However, the lyrics were controversial at the time and many radio stations refused to play it.[8]

The song's promotional film received enthusiastic comments at the Fillmore East.[2] When playing the track in live concerts, the Doors usually approached an cinematic performance, with Jim Morrison getting shot by Robby Krieger onstage, representing the death of the soldier that it's mentioned in the lyrics.[2] Critic Charles S. Gardner of Bridgeport Telegram, reviewing the Doors concert in JFK Stadium, called "The Unknown Soldier" a "desperately anti-war ballad climaxing with Morrison's being thrown to the floor in a burst of exploding electronic feedback".[2]

In retrospect, Matthew Greenwald of AllMusic praised both the song's lyrics and music;[4] he commented the song, verse by verse:

It opens with an eerie organ intro before moving into a jazzy first verse ... A brilliant and dramatic middle section is actually a studio-recreated firing squad, complete with shots. The second verse is a slightly harder-rocking version of the first. The song then erupts into a climatic, extended coda.[4]

The New Musical Express identified the song as "the standout" of Waiting for the Sun's side one.[9] Critic Richie Unterberger declared "The Unknown Soldier" as one of the "first-rate tunes" of the album. He described it as "spooky" and "uncompromisingly forceful as anything the band did."[10] Billboard described the single as "one of the most unusual and intriguing disks of the week in both arrangement and material" that "should prove a top chart item."[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Whitaker, Sterling (May 20, 2013). "The Doors, 'Unknown Soldier' – Songs About Soldiers". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Weidman, Rich (2011). The Doors FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Kings of Acid Rock. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 194. ISBN 978-1617131141.
  3. ^ Sundling, Doug (1990). The Doors: Artistic Vision. Castle Communications. p. 87. ISBN 1-86074-139-8.
  4. ^ a b c Greenwald, Matthew. "The Doors: 'The Unknown Soldier' – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  5. ^ "The Doors Chart History: Hot 100". 2019. Archived from the original on May 7, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Hopkins, Jerry; Sugerman, Danny (1980). No One Here Gets Out Alive. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-446-60228-0.
  7. ^ "The Hot 100 – May 18, 1968". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  8. ^ Simpson, Dave (June 17, 2015). "The Doors: 10 of the Best". The Guardian. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  9. ^ "Waiting for the Sun Review". New Musical Express. Retrieved February 21, 2021 – via
  10. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Doors: Waiting for the Sun". AllMusic. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  11. ^ "Spotlight Singles" (PDF). Billboard. March 23, 1968. p. 74. Retrieved February 23, 2021.