This Week in Rock History: Jim Morrison Dies, the Beatles Hit the Big Screen - Rolling Stone
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This Week in Rock History: Jim Morrison Dies, the Beatles Hit the Big Screen

Plus: Prince reaches Number One with ‘When Doves Cry’

The Beatles run from the police in 'A Hard Day's Night'

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This week in rock history, the Beatles hit the silver screen, Ozzy Osbourne married Sharon, Prince conquered the charts with “When Doves Cry,” and Jim Morrison and Barry White passed away.

July 6, 1964: The Beatles first film, A Hard Days Night, premieres in London
A Hard Days Night premiered with much more fanfare than it had been shot: It screened at the London Pavilion cinema in Piccadilly Circus, with thousands of Beatles fans amassed outside (causing a giant traffic jam). But the movie had been shot cheaply and quickly; it was a blatant attempt to wring cash from  Beatlemania in Europe and the United States. The black-and-white mockumentary followed John, Paul, George and Ringo through a few days on the road, with British television star Wilfrid Brambell providing constant interference as Paul’s dottering grandfather.

Nonetheless, A Hard Days Night did far more than stuff the band’s wallets. The Beatles’ winning rapport and the sharp comic script, as well as several dreamy musical segments for the swooning fangirls, made the flick an immense financial and critical success. Its quick pace influenced the madcap spy flicks of mid-Sixties England (including the band’s hilarious second film, Help!), influenced music videos and the Monkees’ band-in-a-bubble television sitcom, spurred on the Beatles’ Number One single “Can’t Buy Me Love” and most important, established the group as truly multifaceted artists with the charisma and talent to steer their own careers. And Harrison benefited most of all from the film’s smash success: he met his future wife, Pattie Boyd, on set.

July 3, 1971: Jim Morrison is found dead in a bathtub in Paris
The Lizard King died an American ex-pat, like many of the Lost Generation writers he’d admired: He fell had a heart attack while in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. He was 27.

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The brooding, shamanic lead singer of the Doors moved to France in early 1971 to focus on writing and to escape pressing legal issues in the States – that summer, his lawyers were preparing to contest his conviction for exposing himself onstage at a Doors concert in Miami in 1969. Morrison’s death remains a well-debated mystery, not least because the brooding frontman spoke occasionally about faking his own death and starting his life over elsewhere. As it was, no autopsy was done on his body and his girlfriend Pamela Courson reportedly gave several contradictory statements to friends and Doors manager Bill Siddons, who viewed the death certificate in Paris but was not permitted to see the singer’s body. The rest of the Doors were allegedly not informed of Morrison’s passing until after his brief funeral at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where he is buried.

July 4, 1982: Ozzy Osbourne marries Sharon
Ozzy Osbourne was at a career crossroads when he took up seriously with Sharon Arden, his young and aggressive business manager. The daughter of fabled music manager Don Arden, who managed Ozzy during his tenure with metal giants Black Sabbath, Sharon was a crucial figure in launching Ozzy to solo stardom, starting with the expert team of producers and studio musicians she assembled for his successful 1980 debut, The Blizzard of Ozz.

Sharon Arden didn’t fall shy of her father’s legendarily short temper; she was said to physically assault recalcitrant promoters and scream at her major musician clients (her roster included the Smashing Pumpkins and Motörhead). She was also the pivotal figure in weaning Ozzy from his drug addictions; their family’s unusual bond became a television sensation when MTV ran their hilarious reality show The Osbournes from 2002-2005.

These days, Ozzy and Sharon enjoy careers as full-fledged media personalities – Ozzy as an amiably daft cultural icon (including his role as Rolling Stone advice columnist), and Sharon as host of Americas Got Talent and The Talk, among other programs. Their children – Aimee, Kelly and Jack – also enjoy their own celebrity (though Aimee opted out of appearing on The Osbournes).

July 7, 1984: Prince hits Number One on the singles chart for the first time
The lead single from 1984’s Purple Rain has become Prince‘s calling card in his vast catalogue of dance offerings, and rightly so. Upon its release, “When Doves Cry” became his first Number One hit in the U.S., as well as the top-selling single of the year with over two million copies sold.

“When Doves Cry” topped the American Billboard charts for a full five weeks and peaked at Number Four in the United Kingdom. It was the last song written for the Purple Rain soundtrack and its music video provoked controversy itself: the images of his band the Revolution’s sultry dancing and the then-26-year-old singer in a bathtub was considered too explicit for television, though it ultimately ran on MTV and was nominated at their 1985 Music Video Awards.

With Purple Rain and “When Doves Cry,” Prince did the unthinkable in 1984: he became the first artist ever to hold the Number One album, single and film in the United States.

July 4, 2003: Barry White dies from kidney failure
Barry White, soul singer of depthless bass voice and romantic visions, passed away from kidney failure at age 58. It was a blow to the music community, especially soul and funk fans who followed White throughout his genre-defying career.

The Grammy-winning singer found worldwide fame as a solo singer and leader of the 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra in the 1970s, and was very influential in the underground dance movement that became disco. He had previously made a living as a songwriter for pop acts, including the Banana Splits, and as an A&R rep.

White’s love ballads – like “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” – were peerless and his enthusiasm for combining R&B music with classical helped inspire numerous disco artists. He also enjoyed acting occasionally – yep, that really is his voice on The Simpsons.

White was posthumously inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004.

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