It was 43 years ago today (July 3rd, 1971) that Jim Morrison was found dead in the bathtub of his apartment in Paris, France by his longtime companion, Pamela Courson. The local coroner ruled the official cause of death for the 27-year-old Doors frontman as "heart attack induced by respiratory problems." Morrison was buried in Paris's Pere Lachaise Cemetery on July 9th of that year.
On May 20th, 2013, Morrison's closest musical ally, and most fervent supporter, bandmate Ray Manzarek, died at age 74 in Rosenheim, Germany at the RoMed Clinic following a long battle with bile duct cancer.
The rock world has forever been fascinated by the mysterious circumstances surrounding Jim Morrison's sudden and early demise. Steve Harris, the senior VP at the time of the Doors' record label Elektra Records revealed what he knows about Morrison's death: "It was heroin. So they bring Jim home and he's dead. And they put him in the bathtub and there's a knock on the door. Pam goes and opens the door. Y'know who it is? Marianne Faithfull. She saw what was going on and she split."
In December 2010 Florida's outgoing Governor Charlie Crist cleared Morrison's name just one day after what would've been his 67th birthday (December 8th) for his 1969 indecent exposure conviction in Miami. The then-surviving Doors -- Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger -- who have long maintained that Morrison did not expose himself, said in a statement that Morrison had nothing to be pardoned for in the first place. They also said that an apology -- not a pardon -- would have been more appropriate "40 years after the fact."
Although Morrison's freedom, livelihood, and reputation were on the line during the trial, Morrison viewed the whole process as an attack on an artist's first amendment rights, as he explained at the time to NBC News: "(Jim Morrison) I think that nudity is really a cyclical phenomena. I think it comes, it gets very liberal and extreme, and it goes back, reacts the other way and just seems to be a cycle in entertainment. (Reporter) In other words, you feel the same liberalism performed in the theater -- in acting -- should also be generated in music. (Morrison) Well, in the realm of art and theater, I do think that there should be complete freedom for the artists and the performer. I'm not personally convinced that, uh, nudity is always a necessary part of, y'know, a play or a film, but the artist should be free to use it."
Ray Manzarek told us shortly before his death that he hoped people will start to eventually see beyond Morrison's "Lizard King" persona and grow a deeper understanding of the Doors' music: "Y'know, it's a worship of Morrison -- I understand that. Y'know, he's dead. It's like James Dean, y'know -- except James Dean stood alone, so you could worship James Dean. But, I mean, Jim was part of a band. The band was called the Doors. Listen to the music, man. The people who worship Jim Morrison so insanely, I don't even think they know the words, y'know? It's just the image of Jim."
Manzarek felt that much of Morrison's rebellious streak emanated from the rigid and icy relationship he shared with his parents. He told us that in the ensuing years following Morrison's death, he never had any interest in ever meeting the man who fathered the Doors' legendary frontman: "I never met his father. I never met the man. The man, as far as I was concerned, is what Jim said about him in an interview -- 'Tell us about your parents' -- 'My parents are dead.' Jim did say that his father was a roaring sort of man. A small man, a short man, but a huge roar, which he would lay onto his children. He said, 'We had to call him 'sir' at home and we had to call mother 'ma'am.' So he never got to call him 'dad,' or 'daddy' or 'mommy' or 'mom' -- it was always 'ma'am' -- Yes 'ma'am,' yes 'sir.'"
Robbie Krieger says that looking back on the Doors short career with Morrison, he's surprised at how well the foursome always seemed to gel: "It was really like the perfect group, y'know, as far as working together and stuff. There was no ego problems, y'know, and petty jealousies and stuff like that that a lot of groups go through."
John Densmore told us that he believes that the Doors were far greater than their individual creative parts: "Some kind of magic came into a garage in Venice in 1966 that was bigger than all of us. It's not us. It's something that came through us. The multicultural ingredients that each of us brought struck me. I mean, we're all white guys, but Ray with his Chicago youth and the blues and classical music, and then Robby was all hung up on Flamingo and folk music, and I was into jazz, and Jim had read every book on the planet -- that's a melting pot; That's America. Look at those ingredients. And it worked!"
Out now is the Doors' latest archival DVD and Blu-ray release, titled, R-Evolution. The disc features early TV appearances, music films, and commentary from bandmates John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and the late Ray Manzarek. R-Evolution comes on the heels of the band's recent films -- the Grammy Award-winning 2009 documentary When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors, and 2011's fan favorite -- The Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story Of L.A. Woman.
Highlights on the set include early TV appearances on American Bandstand, Malibu U, The Jonathan Winters Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Shebang, and Murray The K In New York. The disc features such rarely seen promo films as "Break On Through," "The Unknown Soldier," "Wild Child," and "The Changeling," among others.
Did you know?
• Apart from his famous son, Jim Morrison's father, George Morrison, was best known for his military service which included commanding naval forces on board the in the Bon Homme Richard on August 2nd, 1964 when the destroyer Maddox engaged three North Vietnamese torpedo boats.
• A "skirmish and confused reports of a second engagement two days later" spurred then-President Johnson to call for air strikes against North Vietnam, and requested Congress to allow what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, enabling the administration to carry out military operations without having to officially declare war.
• In 1967 -- the same year as the Doors released their debut album and "Light My Fire" -- George Morrison was promoted to rear admiral and in 1972 -- a year after Jim's death -- became commander of naval forces in the Marianas.
• Pamela Courson died of a heroin overdose in 1974 at the age of 27.
• In 2008, after seven years of battling over the group's name, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger were ordered to pay $5 million to John Densmore and the estate of Jim Morrison -- which is run by the families of Morrison and his late common-law wife Pamela Courson.
• The battle between Densmore and the Morrison estate began in 2003 when they sued Manzarek and Krieger for touring under the name the Doors Of The 21st Century, citing that it "improperly invoked the Doors' name and images.”
• Densmore has frequently vetoed the band from using their music in film and commercials, including TV spots for Apple and one for Cadillac, which reportedly would've earned the band $15 million. Densmore claims that he's respecting Morrison's wishes.
• In May 2013, Densmore published his second memoir, called The Doors: Unhinged - Jim Morrison's Legacy Goes On Trial.