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John Densmore on his fight to protect The Doors’ legacy

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Red Light Management and Live Nation

John Densmore is the reason we don’t hear music from The Doors in commercials, and he says his decision to fight against it was inspired by an incident with the group’s late frontman, Jim Morrison

“It all started in 1968 when Buick offered us $75,000 — huge money at the time — to sell its new model,” the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer tells The Spectator, noting he, guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek all agreed to the deal without Morrison.  

“He came back and went nuts. Or, being Jim, what he actually said was that if they aired the ad he would smash up a Buick on live TV with a sledgehammer,” he says. “A bulb went off over my head at that moment.”

Densmore is so serious about not licensing The Doors’ music that he took his former bandmates to court over it; things got testy in court, which hurt their relationship. “Among other things, they asked me if I was a communist, and whether I supported Al-Qaeda,” he says.

Densmore wound up winning the legal battle, and says his relationship with Krieger and Manzarek did eventually improve.

While Manzarek passed away in 2013, Densmore says they “made peace right before the end, for which I’m eternally grateful.” As for his relationship with Krieger, Densmore says they’re friendly and hints at a possible project in the future.

“We might even do something together, but I can assure you it won’t be called The Doors,” he says.

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