Jim Morrison, musician, poet and one of the accursed referents of rock, died fifty years ago in Paris and since then he has become a perfect myth, a legend created largely thanks to the influence of cinema.
The anniversary is tomorrow, Saturday. Morrison died at the age of 27 in an apartment in the then bohemian district of the Marais, in Paris, where he had moved to try to leave behind his alcoholism and breathe in the artistic spirit of the city.
Morrison was one of the greats in the history of rock, for the volume and quality of his work.
With six albums in only five years, The Doors became a top band, combining perfect songs, such as “Light my Fire”, or much darker ones, such as the oedipal “The End” or the violent “Riders on the Storm.”
Morrison, lyricist, singer and leader of the group, took these songs to the extreme with dramatic interpretations on stage.
Familiar with the theories of the “theater of cruelty” of Frenchman Antonin Artaud, his “Lizard King” character launched long perorations and provocations to the public and the police who often watched over his concerts.
Diego Manrique, author of the book on the group “Riders in the Storm”, recalls that the four members of The Doors were “cultured guys” involved in avant-garde movements and their songs had nothing to do with what was being done at the time.
But Morrison, with his wild and dramatic appearances on stage, dressed in black leather and sometimes with a naked torso, became a true “sex symbol.”
Musically, they played rock, pop and a lot of incisive blues-rock (“Roadhouse blues”, for example), but with other influences. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek came from jazz and guitarist Robby Krieger was very fond of Spanish classical guitar.
After a few years of success and debauchery, Morrison arrived in Paris in March 1971 and just four months later he was found dead in his rented apartment. The attending physician certified a death due to heart failure and no autopsy was performed.
According to several acquaintances and witnesses, the most likely cause was a heroin overdose, but this was never investigated.
He was buried in the nearby Père Lachaise cemetery. And here closes the circle of the “perfect myth”, according to Manrique. A great American star, adored by his fans, a sex symbol, who dies young in Paris and ends up in the most famous cemetery.
He adds that Morrison’s myth was definitively established some time later, thanks to cinema, with the use of “The End” in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” (1979) and Oliver Stone’s biopic “The Doors” (1991), which have inspired younger fans.
Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise
Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise is one of the most famous and most visited of this cemetery. And this is possibly the most famous cemetery in the world for the renown of those who rest here, especially artists, among the 70,000 graves and 27,000 urns with ashes.
Oscar Wilde; Frédéric Chopin; Yves Montand; Edith Piaf; Marcel Proust; Miguel Ángel Asturias or Georges Bizet are just some of the illustrious neighbors of the rocker, whose tomb never lacks a framed photo, flowers or pilgrim shells.
Before the pandemic, Parisian cemeteries received five million tourists a year, three million of whom visited Père Lachaise.
Morrison’s tomb and those around it are surrounded by a fence that, explains Sylvain Ecole, director of the Paris Cemetery Service, seeks to protect the privacy of the site and “prevent people from getting too close to the grave.”
Some time ago, a marble bust and a plaque were stolen from the tomb. Later, the musician’s father placed another plaque that reads in Greek “Faithful to his own demons.” Ecole insists on asking the singer’s admirers to “respect the place, the graves.”