The night of Jim Morrison’s death
Pamela Courson woke up in her bedroom to find her bedside empty. It was early morning on July 3, 1971, the sun had yet to rise over the sleepy Parisian city. Groggy, and coming down from a high, Pamela looked around the room to look for her boyfriend, Jim Morrison.
As she wipes the sleep from her eyes, she remembers Jim woke up in the middle of the night in a fit of coughs. The memory returning, he assured her that he was fine and only needed a hot bath. That was hours ago. Was he still in the tub? She headed toward the bathroom, thinking he must have fallen asleep in the bath. What she saw instead shattered her world.
A warm bath
Pamela found Jim in the tub, still and quiet. His eyes were closed, but he wore a half-smile. For a moment she thought he was pulling her leg, pretending to be asleep or dead. But when she reached him, she soon discovered that this was far from a cruel gag.
The Lizard King was dead at twenty-seven. The cause was believed to be heart failure, though an autopsy was never conducted. Nearly fifty years later, his death continues to be a mystery. Some believe Jim died from an overdose, joining the ranks of other great artists before him. Others believe he’s still alive.
When the music’s over, turn out the lights
But, why the conspiracy? Why not put the rumors to rest? Perhaps there is more than meets the eye on Jim Morrison’s death. After all, the 1960s was a tumultuous time built on political unrest and social reform. But more than that, Jim Morrison had expressed to friends that he needed to get away from the spotlight to focus on his art — writing poetry — distracted.
A new generation of the counterculture was born, and Jim Morrison was the trailblazer — an icon who was described as an incarnation of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, clad in leather and all. However, to understand the end of Jim Morrison’s life, it’s necessary to turn back the clock and start from the beginning.
The early life of Jim Morrison
An army brat, Jim Morrison’s father was an admiral in the Navy who was stationed around the US. Before the age of five, Jim Morrison and his family moved four times, each state more different than the last. Growing up in a family that was periodically uprooted would prove strenuous for the Jim, his parents didn’t make it any easier on him.
Though they didn’t believe in physical punishment like spanking, they lashed out verbally and often delivered their punishment by expressing guilt and blame. However, apart from his troubled childhood, Jim began to see things uniquely from a young age, and there’s one memory in particular that he carried his entire life that changed his life forever.
A traumatic event
While living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jim witnessed something he would never forget. As he and his family were driving down a desert highway, his father pulled their car to the side and turned off the engine. He proceeded to step out, along with his grandfather, leaving him, his siblings, his mother, and grandmother in the car.
Pressing his face against the window, he saw something horrific. Bodies belonging to Native Americans were thrown across the highway. It was a result of a very recent accident that had left many dead, while others wailed and cried in pain hysteria. Jim wanted to get out of the car and follow his father and grandfather, but his mother locked the doors.
A very bad dream
When his father and grandfather returned to their car, they drove to the nearest service station and called the highway patrolmen for assistance. Along the way, Jim peppered his father with questions about the accident. A grim subject, his father told him to forget about what he saw, that it was all a “bad dream.”
Looking back on that incident, Jim had this to say, “I’m just this little…like a child is a flower, man, whose head is just floating in the breeze. But the reaction I get now, thinking back, looking back, is that, possibly, the soul of one of those Indians, maybe several of them, just ran over and jumped into my brain…It’s not a ghost story, man. It’s something that really means something to me.”
Struggling to cope
In his biography, the accident took a mental hold on Jim’s mind and as a result, he began wetting his bed. His mother, unsympathetic to his ailment, scolded him and would often send him back to bed and sleep in his wet sheets. He became so nervous about his accidents that Jim would sleep on the floor.
It’s suspected that his bed-wetting was connected to his developing rheumatic fever, but it also a symptom of trauma. It might have worsened his health and possibly contributed to having a weak heart. His poor health along with his consumption of drugs and alcohol would allegedly lead to the front man’s death.
A loner begins to lash out
From childhood to adolescence, Jim found it difficult to connect with others and form meaningful friendships. As a child growing up in a military family there was little opportunity to make friends. With few friends and a strenuous family environment, it’s no surprise that Jim would lash out and become rebellious.
He would often bully his siblings. His younger brother Andy would get the most unwanted attention from his brother, often being the victim of loogies, headlocks, and even farting on his face. You would think this was typical sibling rivalry, however, it goes much deeper than poking fun at the younger sibling.
Disowning his family
Both his parents felt the need to control every aspect of the Morrison family lives. Their mother was not the most maternal and his father, being in the Navy, would bark orders when returning home from service. There was no give, no empathy. In fact, as an adult, Jim would tell reporters that he didn’t have a family — that all his immediate family died or that he was orphaned.
He actively disassociated himself with his family. In his later concerts, a drunken Jim would interrupt one of his concerts and confess to the audience, “I’ve been reading about the problems kids have with their parents. Yeah. That’s right. And I’m here to tell you— I didn’t get enough love as a kid!”
Jim’s only way out from his domestic life was college, so he applied, was accepted, and departed the Morrison household. Known for having a brilliant mind, Jim took an interest in art and writing. He loved writing so much that while studying at UCLA, Jim’s focus shifted from film to poetry.
He fell in love with poems written by counterculture thought leaders like William Blake and the work of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, influences that would come across in his work. As he studied, he began to lose interest in film and school altogether and thought of dropping out. But one thing kept him from dropping out of school: war.
Not my war
Jim graduated from UCLA in 1965 for one reason. That was the military draft. The Vietnam War came into full swing and full-time students were exempt from mandatory enlistment. Jim later recounted: “I didn’t want to go into the army, and I didn’t want to work — and that’s the damned truth.”
Good thing he didn’t drop out too, because it was during his time in UCLA that Jim rounded a few of his classmates and started a band. Jim, who considered himself a poet, transferred his art into music in the form of lyrics. The college friends turned band called themselves The Doors.
Pop quiz for die-hard fans: how did the band get its name? The name was proposed by Jim, suggesting the name to the rest of the guys which was inspired by William Blake in Aldous Huxley’s book, The Doors of Perception. The bandmates liked it enough, and the group adopted it.
Inside was a quote from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” The name stuck, and soon, The Doors were making rock and roll history. However, fame had its downside.
Riders on the storm
His art and inspirations would give birth to songs like “Light My Fire,” “People Are Strange,” “Touch Me,” “Hello, I Love You,” and “Riders On the Storm.” His music career skyrocketed, and with it, a lifestyle surrounded by sex, drugs, and alcohol. Snakeskin and leather never looked so good.
Through his music he challenged the status quo, damning the age of conformity and ending the silence in a conservative era. He damns the father and raised a middle finger to commercialism, corporate America, and politics. In his rebellious career, Jim had his run-ins with the law and was often arrested. He was a true priest of Dionysus, a sexual contortionist, and he was raging and burning fast and bright.
Come on baby, light my fire
On top of his fame, Jim met Pamela Courson. She was nineteen, Jim twenty-two. The daughter of a headmaster of a public school, she had a long history of being rebellious and free-spirited. She was wild, independent, with fiery red hair that drew Jim like a moth to a beckoning flame.
She was the incarnation of the sixties and lived within the moment which got her twisted into drugs and the world of rock n’ roll. They met at one of the band’s gig and it was impossible to tear them apart after. However, soon, the last living lifestyle was about to take its toll.
She was a princess; queen of the highway
Jim saw Pamela as his soulmate; a true woman born out a kaleidoscope of the psychedelic cosmos brought to him in a fire that he could never extinguish. She was born for him, just as he was for her. Two bright burning stars, they both fed and exhausted on one another.
They relished in each other’s similar personalities, but also enabled their own self-destructive qualities. They tormented each other with arguments, violence, and infidelity. But, no matter how much they fought and broke up, they always found themselves gravitating toward each other time and time again. Pamela was like Yoko Ono, but unlike Yoko, Pamela wanted Jim to break away from The Doors, believing he was above the band, and should focus on his poetry.
After six years of performing, and hitting superstar success, Jim’s music career was going on a downhill trajectory. Like most bands who go mainstream, they were subjected to harsh criticism from the media and soon, the very people who praised them were calling them commercial opportunists. Jim didn’t really like that.
The constant partying, and substance abuse didn’t help and resulted in notorious drunken performances and ultimately, an “incident” that changed the trajectory of the band. On March 1, 1969, their reputation would crumble when Jim was allegedly arrested for indecent exposure while performing on stage in front of a crowd of 12,000.
Breakin’ up with the band
Jim vehemently denied exposing himself before his fans. However, whether the leading front man dropped his pants and showed off his…*clears throat* slong. The band’s reputation actually took a *clears throat*… blow. Arrested and fined, the authorities could not prove that he flashed his male member to a crazed crowd of fans (would they have cared?).
Jim was charged. He rejected a plea bargain and was found guilty. Soon after, once they finished their final album “L.A. Women,” Jim dropped a bombshell when he announced that he was leaving the band and moving to Paris with Pam. The band’s reaction was, to say the least, unexpected.
We’ll catch ya later, Jim
The band members were bummed but not shocked that their lead singer was moving to Paris. Ray Manzarek, the band’s pianist, commented in an interview about Jim’s last studio recording session. It was in there that Jim announced the move. L.A. Woman would be the last album The Doors would record together.
Manzarek states, “it was the last time he ever sang, to my knowledge, on planet earth, certainly the last time he ever sang with the Doors…” Manzarek thought it was an “excellent idea” and thought the move was something the singer needed. As far as Manzarek was concerned, he thought moving to a city fueled by art world would revitalize Jim’s creativity.
Escaping the drain of fame…and a criminal charge or two
Hoping the move would re-center the singer’s creative focus, Manzarek believed that it would be a great opportunity for Jim to get away from the fans, the zealous crowd who would drain him mentally with autographs and meaningless conversations. Not to mention, the indecent exposure case was still not settled, but Jim was convinced the case was political, and that despite entering over 500 photos of the event into evidence (showing a fully clothed Morrison), he would have to serve time.
It was also thought that Jim and Pam’s relationship was taking a turn for the worse, and to appease his love, the couple agreed to move to Paris in hopes of patching up their relationship. Needless to say, the Lizard King was looking for a clean start. But then, tragedy struck.
What happened to Jim Morrison?
On July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison died dead from heart failure. This made sense considering the rock legend has experienced poor health in the past and was asthmatic, plus his substance abuse hindered his health further, along with his constant physical abuse in his performances, it seemed that the legend’s clock finally stopped.
But something just didn’t add up. There was no official autopsy clarifying the cause of death, only the vague assumption that his heart failure was due to a heroin overdose. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Some believe that Jim didn’t die in his bathtub but in a different location. Others believe it was murder, while others believed the clad-leather anarchist was still alive.
Border line, dead inside, I don’t mind
Jim’s death should have been national news, every boho-fan around the world would mourn, and thousands would have crowded around his grave showering his casket with roses and playing his music as his casket was lowered. But this was not the case. In fact, it played out in the opposite way.
Jim was buried on July 7, 1971, at the famed Pere Lachaise, where some of the most esteemed men and women are buried, including Balzac, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf. It was a small funeral that included the band’s manager Bill Siddons. And what happened next kick-started the conspiracy surrounding the celebrity’s death.
A closed coffin
Allegedly in Ray Manzarek’s 1998 autobiography Light My Fire, the Door’s manager neglected to physically see the body, “Everything was done in a hurry. No priest was present, everybody left quickly. The whole scene was piteous and miserable.” Siddon then issued a statement to Rolling Stone which read: “There was no service, and that made it all the better. We just threw some flowers and dirt and said goodbye.”
Manzerk remembers getting into a heated argument with the manager and asked Siddons how he knew his body was in the coffin, “How do you know it wasn’t one hundred fifty pounds of fucking sand? You buried a sealed coffin, man. We’ll never know the real truth now.”
Questions around Jim Morrison’s death
Just as Manzarek predicted, rumors spread about the death of Jim Morrison. As his funeral was an intimate affair, and the cause of death was questioned by his bandmates and family. Years later, the serious debate continues to surround his death, and we’re not going to lie, some of them are just batty.
Like, he was abducted by aliens (isn’t that always a theory?). But what if one testimony was from a source who was indirectly involved with the rocker’s death? What if this celebrity was also a musician, and was known to be in Paris at the time? Turns out, there was someone like that, who came forward with a story.
The plot thickens
Ex-flame of rock legend Sir Mick Jagger, singer, and actress Marianne Faithfull, claims she knows who killed Jim Morrison. Traveling in Paris in 1971 with drug-dealer boyfriend Jean de Breiteuil, Faithfull recalls the story of the lead singer’s tragic death. Dealing with substance abuse herself, Faithfull was in a dark place.
While driving along with her beau, de Breiteuil decided to make a stop to visit Morrison in his apartment (possibly a solicited visit). Instead of joining de Breiteuil to see the retired frontman (and indecent exposure fugitive), Faithfull decided to stay home. What she claims happened next is tragic.
Who, what, when, where
Breiteuil took off for Jim’s place, leaving Faithfull behind. “I could intuitively feel trouble,” she said. “He went to see Jim Morrison and killed him. I mean I’m sure it was an accident. Poor bastard. The smack was too strong? Yeah. And died. And I didn’t know anything about this.”
Faithfull believes Breiteuil accidentally gave him heroin that was too potent. Some speculate that Jim was showing signs of overdose, and to help counteract the symptoms, he placed himself in a hot bath to help ease the strain. However, another source says that Jim didn’t die in his apartment, but rather in a Parisian club.
That’s not the only alternate theory. Former nightclub manager, Sam Bernett tells a different story as to how Jim Morrison met his demise. Bernett does reinforce that Jim overdosed, however, it wasn’t in his apartment — it was in the bathroom stall of a popular nightclub called the Rock and Roll Circus.
Bennett describes that at around 1 a.m., on July 3, 1971, Jim arrived at the nightclub with two other men who were identified as drug dealers. They sold Jim heroin that was supposedly for his girlfriend (though Jim was also a known user). When Bennett looked up to look for the singer, he disappeared.
Someone knows something
At first, Bennett didn’t think much of Jim’s disappearance. But later Bennett discovered that a couple of bouncers broke down a bathroom stall where an unconscious Jim Morrison was found. Bennett claimed the singer had overdosed and died in the stall and claimed that his nose was surrounded with foam and blood.
“When we found him dead, he had a little foam on his nose, and some blood too, and the doctor said, ‘That must be an overdose of heroin.’” What happened next? Bennett insisted that the drug dealers carried Jim’s body out of the club. Bennett wanted to call the authorities, but the club’s owner at the time didn’t want any trouble, so Bennett kept quiet.
Can’t seem to find the right lie
To this day, Bennett guesses that the drug dealers took his body to his apartment where they placed him in the tub which they filled with hot water, a method to revive overdose victims. He believes that once they saw Jim wasn’t moving, they left him in the tub and bailed.
It seems one way or another, there are different stories revolving around the circumstances around Jim’s death. Some believe it’s a known fact that Jim Morrison died that fateful day in July. Others deny that Jim Morrison called it quits and floated into the afterlife. One man firmly believes Jim is still out there. What’s more, he believes he found him.
Was he found?
When New York native — Brokkenstar — garnered some attention when he declared to have found an aged Jim Morrison alive in New York City. For seven years, Brokkenstar had been following a vagrant who calls himself “Richard” who neither denies or admits in being the deceased rock legend. Many believe he bares a striking resemblance to Morrison.
The YouTube videographer was taken aback by the likeliness that the man possesses and in the fact that the man also writes poetry and occasionally recites them. Though Brokkenstar is convinced, many believe that it’s just a homeless celebrity doppelganger who listened to one too many albums and idolized the fallen legend. In either case, it be pretty to think that somewhere out there, Jim Morrison is alive and well, writing poetry and continuing to spread his musing to this day.
The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near
In the end, believe what you will, but there are still some serious questions revolving around the Doors’ front-man and the mysterious circumstances around his death. We continue to ask why his body was never seen before his burial, and why it was necessary — if he truly is alive — to go to the extent of faking his own death?
Perhaps he grew tired of fame and felt that it was time to reinvent himself? After all, Jim Morrison was not one to follow the regular conventions of the mundane and often resorted to drastic performances without fear or shame. Perhaps this is one of those times where he needed to find a way out. If the rumors are true, we’d have to give it up: It would be the performance of his lifetime — which is saying a lot.