At the top of a winding staircase, a larger-than-life photograph of Jim Morrison, shirtless, seductive and forever young, looms as the song "Back Door Man" pulses through the room.
Forty years after making their recording debut, the Doors — one of America's greatest rock and roll bands, whose lasting sound has inspired generations of musicians and fans — are being honored with a comprehensive exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
"Break on Through: The Lasting Legacy of the Doors" opens Friday and will be on display until Oct. 7. The exposition includes rare photographs, guitars, tour programs, posters, letters and stage clothing, as well as handwritten lyrics by Morrison.
"If he were here, Jim would just love it," Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger said Thursday of the band's frontman, who died in 1971 at the age of 27. "He'd go crazy."
Die-hard fans and casual admirers will enjoy culling through the exhibit, which chronicles the Doors' brief recording history — 1967-71 — as well as the band's enduring popularity.
The retrospective includes artifacts already on display at the hall, as well as memorabilia loaned by Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, private collectors and Morrison's estate.
"It's OK to part with a Vox Continental," Manzarek said. "My organ is an obsolete instrument. It sounds great, but it's obsolete."
The Doors, on the other hand, have stood the test of time. The band's annual music sales top more than $2 million and merchandise sales bring in another $8 million.
"Whether you talk to someone who is 20 years old or 60 years old, there is this huge group of people who are familiar with them, know them and love them," said Jim Henke, the hall's chief curator. "It seems like each generation rediscovers them. But unlike the Beatles, who maybe your parents introduced you to, with the Doors, as a teenager you discover Jim Morrison and the Doors and latch onto it."
The exhibit includes a photograph of a smiling Morrison standing at the microphone and cradling a sheep during a show in Miami for which he was arrested for indecent exposure and profanity.
Manzarek said he was moved by a letter from Morrison's father to the Florida Probation and Parole Commission following the singer's conviction in 1970.
Among other notable items in the exhibit loaned by Manzarek are some of Morrison's poetry books and the keyboardist's original wedding certificate marking his Dec. 21, 1967, marriage to Dorothy Fujikawa, and listing Morrison as a witness to the ceremony.