Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Fans pay tribute on 30th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death

July 4, 2001

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— Hundreds of fans, many burning incense and murmuring prayers, filed through a Paris cemetery Tuesday to pay tribute to Jim Morrison, the mythic Doors singer who died in the French capital 30 years ago.

Morrison, who rose to superstar status with songs like "Light My Fire," was found dead of heart failure in the bathtub of his Paris apartment on July 3, 1971, at age 27. He was buried under a modest granite headstone in the leafy Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Some visitors laid snippets of poetry to honor the man who in many ways embodied the 1960s ethos of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

A band playing at a nearby cafe blared Doors songs loud enough to echo through the cemetery, while several 20-somethings crouched by trees or nearby graves to smoke marijuana.

Unlike the 20th anniversary of Morrison's death, when fans clashed with police in the cemetery, this year's commemoration passed peacefully under a blazing sun.

Only about 20 police officers were visible, checking bags for smuggled alcohol.

There was no official figure for the number of fans who turned up, but one police officer said thousands of fans had made the pilgrimage. Paris city officials had said they expected 10,000 to 20,000 people to visit the grave.

About 1.5 million people visit Pere Lachaise every year to see the graves of Morrison and other artistic notables, including playwright Oscar Wilde, singer Edith Piaf and composer Frederic Chopin.

Former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek visited the grave to pay his own tribute to the band's front man. Manzarek clasped his hands in prayer in front of the grave, and remained silent for several minutes. He then chatted with fans before leaving.

Manzarek said he feels Morrison's presence, even 30 years after his death. "Every day, somewhere in the world, a Doors song is played. The energy of Jim Morrison is still with us, in the ether."

The Doors produced six albums from 1967 to 1971 with top hits such as "L.A. Woman," "Love Me Two Times," "Hello, I Love You," and "Riders on the Storm." The band's records still sell millions each year.

In 1971, taking a brief leave from the band, Morrison came to France on a personal sabbatical to write poetry. Before that, Manzarek and fellow Doors members John Densmore and Robert Krieger had warned Morrison that he had been drinking too much.

"John, Robby and I had a confrontation with him," Manzarek said. "It wasn't affecting his art, but it was affecting him as a human being."

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