Jim Morrison, singer, lyrics writer and public face of the Doors, died in Paris, France, on July 3, 1971 at the age of 27 years and 207 days. The official cause of death was heart failure. There was no autopsy, and the French medical examiner’s findings have been disputed. In fact, his death has been disputed, but Morrison’s girlfriend Pam Courson and the medical examiner both saw his lifeless body.
The facts are these. Morrison and Courson had arrived in Paris in the spring of 1971 and they rented an apartment on the Right Bank. At this time, he was apparently drinking heavily, but was also using cocaine and heroin. However, he had a phobia about needles, and was in the habit of snorting the hard drugs rather than injecting them. Courson was also a drug user and the two had many dealers who supplied drugs for their habits. On the evening of July 2 they were in the apartment using drugs and drinking in their customary way. While his girlfriend nodded off, Morrison filled the bathtub and got in. He apparently died in the tub, but Courson did not find him there until the next morning. She called the police and when they arrived she told them that neither Morrison nor her used drugs, only alcohol. A medical examiner pronounced him dead at the scene.
Courson later told biographer and Doors employee Dan Sugerman the real story, at least her version at the time. She changed her story several times, and others have come forth in the intervening years to add details, but it is likely that Morrison snorted heroin thinking it was cocaine, and it killed him. Whether he actually died in the apartment or in a club will probably never be known for sure, since Pam Courson herself died of a heroin overdose 3 years later – and also at the age of 27.
Morrison is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. His tomb has been defaced several times, but currently has a large stone with an engraving placed there by his father. The Greek inscription translates literally to “according to his own daemon” and is generally taken to mean marching to his own drummer, true to his own spirit, and so on.
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