The Unknown Soldier

Album: Waiting For The Sun (1968)
Charted: 39


  • This is an antiwar song, but not specifically about the Vietnam War, which was going on at the time.

    Jim Cherry, author of The Doors Examined, stated that the song specifically avoided being overtly about the Vietnam War because the band wanted it to be more timeless and universal.

    As opposed to songs such as Country Joe and the Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag," the Doors' antiwar effort sounds more like a timeless appeal than a time capsule, which is exactly how they wanted it.
  • The Doors took over 130 takes to record this. Producer Paul Rothchild was being very particular.
  • Many radio stations refused to play this due to its controversial content.
  • The Doors developed this when they were on tour in 1967.
  • Some of the sounds in this include military drums, commands, and a firing squad. The firing squad was reproduced on stage with Krieger pointing his guitar at Morrison like a rifle, Densmore dropping a reverb unit to make a loud pop, and Morrison dropping as if he was shot. In the studio, the gunshot sound was a rimshot played by John Densmore on the snare drum.
  • The Doors made a provocative video for this song where Jim Morrison is strapped to a pole on a pier in Santa Monica, then shot dead. The scene then cuts to footage of the Vietnam War before returning to the pier, where Morrison's bandmates are walking away. Directed by Mark Abramson and Edward Dephoure, the video appeared in various edits on different compilations. It was occasionally shown at their concerts.

Comments: 23

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 19th 1968, the Doors performed at the Northern California Rock Festival in Santa Clara, California...
    The sixth song in their seventh song set was "The Unknown Soldier"; the day before was its last day on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, it was at #39 and that was also its peak position on the chart and it was there for three weeks…
    At the time the quartet had two albums on Billboard's Top Albums chart; 'The Doors' was at #44, while 'Strange Days' held down the #88 spot...
    A month later on June 30th "Hello, I Love You" would entered the Top 100, and on July 28th, 1968 it would peak at #1 for two weeks...
    R.I.P. Ray Manzarek {1939 - 2013} and to 'The Lizard King' {1943 - 1971}.
  • Dionysus from Belgium, BelgiumJacques Tardi, a French comic strip artist drew in 1974 "La véritable histoire du soldat inconnu" - The True Story Of The Unknown Soldier. The story is actually a delirium. Particularly common in delirium tremens, caused by severe alcohol withdrawal.
  • Chloe from St. Louis, Momusicmama, though im a massive lennon fan, "imagine" is a joke. it was just yoko ono's influence- john himself was NOT a peaceful guy. and "special effects" being the draw of doors music? are you high?
  • Yourmotherrr from Olivia, MnCan anyone help me find a critica analysis on this song or an interview of someone with a reaction from this song? or even a critique from Morrison himself or the doors as a band.. anything..
  • Simon from Palmetto, GaWhat do you mean 'somewhere'?
    The tomb of the unknown soldier is located in Arlington cemetery in Washington DC.
  • Jake from Baltimore, MdThis song is very similar to the Walt Whitman poem, the Bravest Soldier.
    "Brave, brave were the soldiers (high named to-day) who lived
    through the fight;
    But the bravest press'd to the front and fell, unnamed, unknown."

    I wonder if Morrison read this, im sure he did he was well read and Whitman is the original American Voice as morrison was in his time.
  • Anuk from Colombo, Sri Lanka (ceylon)great song.fantastic lyrics accompanied by great music. great promo video done by the doors. they've been making music videos way before mtv !!
  • Nady from Adelaide, Australiaewww Bruce Springsteen? bleeeeecchhh my personal hell along with banjo music and Billy Ray Cyrus. I've got the footage of some Doors concerts on the 40th anniversary dvd and this is one of the best songs thaey performed live. When Densmore did the drumroll Jim pretended to be shot with Krieger's guitar and keel over and start singing lying down and jump up and scream out the words! it's musical genious meets anti war demo at its best! GO DOORS!
  • Musicmama from New York, NyJena: I agree with you that Bruce Springsteen isn't much of a singer. When I listen to his work, it's for the overall sound and sometimes the lyrics. That's still more than I can say for Morrison and the Doors.
  • Jena from Bonner Springs, KsUh, MusicMama, "The Unknown Soldier" is better than "Born in the USA" for one key reason. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, Jim Morrison could sing :)
  • Andrew from Adelaide, AustraliaThere's a story that says that Jim Morrison wrote this on a napkin whilst drunk. Um, then he threw up and passed out. It's a good song by any means.
  • Musicmama from New York, NyTo Jimi of Reno: How can you call this the greatest anti-war song ever written? Have you heard "Imagine" by John Lennon? Or "Bloody Sunday" by U2? (I'm not much of a U2 fan, but I like that song.) Even Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the USA" is a better antiwar song--and better music and poetry, pure and simple--than "Unknown Soldier." This is a song that proves what I've always thought about Jim Morrison: He was what Steven Speilberg would've been if he'd drunk too much and did a lot of psychedelic drugs. In this and other songs by Jim Morrison--as in much of Spielberg's early work--the pyrotechnic special effects are the attraction, not the song or story itself.
  • Nadine from Riverside, CaThe best song ever in my opinion; very deep. Morrison was a genius.
  • Steve from Winnipeg, Canadalove the beat at the end, im a huge Doors fan, my uncle has like every album by every good band out there, readin a bio bout Jim
  • Jimi from Reno, NvThe best Antiwar song ever written by any human being alive or dead. Morrison was The American Poet of the 60's.
  • Douglas from Melbourne, FlAmerica is under a corporate oligarchy, which have never cared for anyone or anything but the almighty dollar, hence corporations paying for wars to continue, instead of not knowing our soldiers.
  • Michael from Sarasota, United StatesOne of Jim Morrison's (and rock's) finest moments, "The Unknown Soldier" deserves deeper scrutiny. To view it only as an an anti-war statement is to underestimate the poetic genius that conceived it. Understanding that Morrison utilized "war" as a metaphor for "life," the overwhelmingly joyous conclusion of the song has a far darker implication: that life's end is cause for unbridled celebration. In that regard, "The Unknown Soldier" must be viewed as perhaps the most eloquent examples of Morrison's death wish. An aside: I purchased the 45 rpm version upon it's 1968 release. The gunshot resonated with far more explosive depth than the album version, but the thrilling/chilling "war is over" finale lacked the cheering throng, bells and (conjured) confetti that the album version, released four months later, contained. More than a fair trade-off to my mind.
  • Matthew from Downers Grove, IlThis is a superb song by the Doors. The Doors Greatest has is it and a ton of other amazing songs.
  • Jena from Bonner Springs, KsThe once-banned video is available on the collection "The Doors: Dance on Fire". It's an awesome video collection of Doors' footage, both live performances and videos!
  • Shell from Riverdale, Ga"Morrison was inspired to write this from the tombstone called The unknown soldier somewhere in the USA.. this was dedicated to all the soldier who had died in Vietnam and witch the americans did not find the bodies.. this helped the families of the victims to grieve!- Veronique, Gatineau, Canada" Thank you, Veronique, for being respectful of this. Many others from foreign lands (granted you're right next door, but...) wouldn't be so. You're info is a little off, though. The "Tomb Of The Unknowns", formerly known as the "Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier" (political correctness and ignorance led to the change) is in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. It contains unidentified remains of soldiers (using the term in the broad sense, as the original name did) from WWI, WWII, and Korea. A dead soldier from Vietnam was interred but his remains were identified in 1998. Arlington is also the last resting place of President John F. Kennedy, General Of The Armies John J. Pershing (of WWI renown), astronauts from throughout America's space programs including crew members from the Space Shuttles "Challenger" and "Columbia", foreign dignitaries such as General Sir John Dill, British liaison to the American Chiefs of Staff in WWII, and many others who gave their lives in service to the USA in one way or another, or were friends and supporters of us. There is even a WWII German POW who died after the war but before he could be repatriated (and what better resting place for a patriot than among his spiritual brethren?). Look at if you would like to learn about the place.
  • Keith from Slc, UtWould you believe that GLEN CAMPBELL did a cover of this a few years back?
  • Amit from Fair Lawn, NjThe promotional film for the song was banned twice (1968 and 1986.)
  • Veronique from Gatineau, CanadaMorrison was inspired to write this from the tombstone called The unknown soldier somewhere in the USA.. this was dedicated to all the soldier who had died in Vietnam and witch the americans did not find the bodies.. this helped the families of the victims to grieve!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Sarah Brightman

Sarah BrightmanSongwriter Interviews

One of the most popular classical vocalists in the land is lining up a trip to space, which is the inspiration for many of her songs.

Rock Stars of Horror

Rock Stars of HorrorMusic Quiz

Rock Stars - especially those in the metal realm - are often enlisted for horror movies. See if you know can match the rocker to the role.

Wedding Bell Blues

Wedding Bell BluesSong Writing

When a song describes a wedding, it's rarely something to celebrate - with one big exception.

Francesca Battistelli

Francesca BattistelliSongwriter Interviews

The 2011 Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards isn't your typical gospel diva, and she thinks that's a good thing.

Christmas Songs

Christmas SongsFact or Fiction

Rudolf, Bob Dylan and the Singing Dogs all show up in this Fact or Fiction for seasonal favorites.

Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders

Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star RidersSongwriter Interviews

Writing with Phil Lynott, Scott saw their ill-fated frontman move to a darker place in his life and lyrics.