Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison


Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older.
The unknown soldier …

        Breakfast where the news is read,
        Television, children fed.
        Unborn living, living dead;
        Bullet strikes the helmet's head.

                  And it's all over
                  For the unknown soldier.

[Soundtrack of a funeral’s 21 gun salute.]

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder.
The unknown soldier …

        [Repeat B section, omitting the third line]

                  And it's all over
                  The war is over.

                  [Scat and fadeout with church bells]

The North Vietnamese Tet Offensive was launched on January 30, 1968, bringing disasterous losses to U.S. troops in Vietnam.The first months of 1968 introduced the first psychedelic anti-war songs, the first being the Byrd’s album cut Draft Morning on Notorious Byrd Brothers (released January 15th of that year), and the second being The Unknown Soldier, a single that charted poorly. This was followed by the far more successful Sky Pilot by Eric Burdon and the Animals. All of these songs used sound effects of the military and war.

The Unknown Soldier was the first release by the “Doors” since the album Strange Days was issued back in September 1967. The Doors always had a theatrical bent, but this song was conceived to be performed on stage, and was the first Doors song that was turned into a video. A film of the Doors’ performance of this song is available on the web. The firing squad was reproduced on stage with Robby Krieger pointing his guitar at Jim Morrison like a rifle, John Densmore breaking his drumsticks on the snare drum to make a loud pop, and Morrison dropping as if he was shot. Ray Manzarek followed the scene with an eerie cry from his electric organ, reminiscent of the sounds he produced on Strange Days.

Given the amount of production time required to record The Unknown Soldier (songfacts reports it took 130 takes to complete), the lack of popularity for the song must have been disappointing. The message of the song is a bit hazy, though it seems a contemplation based on watching Vietnam War footage on TV. Long before John Lennon’s 1971 song War is Over, Jim Morrison was making the same proclamation contrary to fact. But in this case, Morrison seems to be implying the war is only over for those who have died in it. The rest of us continue to be bludgeoned with news of the carnage.