Singer / Songwriter
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Date Posted: Wednesday, July 03, 07:50:45am
James Douglas Morrison, Poet: Dead at 27
Jim Morrison, a man who sang, wrote and drank hard as lead singer of the Doors, has died – peacefully – at the age of 27. Morrison’s death, despite (and because of) strategic efforts on the part of his wife Pamela and friends, was shrouded in mystery.
He died in the early morning of Saturday, July 3rd, but it was July 9th, two days after he had been buried in a Paris cemetery, before his manager let word out to the American press.
Bill Siddons, the Doors’ manager, explained in a statement: “The initial news of his death and funeral was kept quiet because those of us who knew him intimately and loved him as a person wanted to avoid all the notoriety and circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.”
Siddons, 23, made the statement on his return from Paris, where he, Pamela, and three friends had attended the burial, at Pere Lachaise cemetery. So far, no marker has been erected, and Siddons said there would be no services in Los Angeles, where Morrison had attended UCLA and began singing with the Doors in 1965.
“The whole reason I went to Paris and didn’t announce the death was…he went there in March to write and rest. In Paris, he’d found some peace and happiness and worked L.A. out of his system. It may be hard to understand, but it was hard to live here [in Los Angeles] and live what everybody thought he was. “There was no service, and that made it all the better. We just threw some flowers and dirt and said goodbye.”
There was also no autopsy. Just because we didn’t want to do it that way. We wanted to leave him alone. He died in peace and dignity.” Still, someone botched things up.
Rumors leaked out from Paris to London that weekend that Morrison had died. But when reporters called Jim and Pam’s flat, near the Bastille, they reported being told that Morrison was “not dead but very tired and resting in a hospital.” As late as July 8th, after the singer-composer-poet had been buried, United Press International’s Paris office was reporting Morrison “recovering and being treated in a hospital or sanitarium.” A pop paper in Paris ran a photo of Morrison with the headline reading Jim Morrison Not Dead, again reporting him “tired” from Morrison “a minor malady.”
His death was kept absolutely secret. Saturday night, however, a disc jockey in a local nightclub reported the death over the loudspeaker. His announcement was greeted with surprise and silence. A small current of talk spread, landed in London that night, and reverberated back to Paris for comment and details. There were none.
The American Embassy didn’t hear rumors until Monday. Finally, Pam Morrison filed the death certificate on Wednesday, listing Jim as James Morrison, poet. The embassy didn’t realize until Friday, when news agencies began pressing for the story, that the dead man was Jim Morrison of the Doors.
It is known that Morrison had a respiratory ailment and had been coughing up blood for nearly two months in Paris. He saw two doctors during that time, but up to the time of his death, appeared strong and healthy. He and Pamela had traveled off to Spain, Morocco and Corsica and, back in Paris, was keeping up with close friends like poet Michael McClure and photographer Frank Lisciandro – and the Doors’ office – through postcards, letters, and phone calls. He was talking, at various times, about working on a screenplay and on poetry in France, and he kept in touch with his business manager, Bob Greene. He wanted enough money to stay through September. Around 4a.m. Saturday, July 3rd, Morrison woke up, disturbed. He was coughing again, and when he awoke, he threw up a small quantity of blood. But, Siddons said, Jim told Pam he felt okay and that he wanted to take a bath.
Pamela, 25, apparently went back to sleep. Then she decided to check on him. “Jim was dead in the bathtub,” said Siddons. “He had a half-smile on his face, and at first Pamela thought he was kidding, putting her on. But he was dead.” Pam called the fire department to attempt resuscitation, and the police and a doctor followed – all too late.
The death certificate listed the cause of death as a heart attack. Some early news reports said a sudden case of pneumonia led to the death. Siddons said he knew the exact cause of death but couldn’t describe it in official medical terms. “It was some sort of heart failure,” he said, complicated by a possible lung infection. “Blood probably collected from a clot and worked its way up the chest and blocked heart valves. And that caused the heart attack.”
Siddons attributed the blood clot to “physical abuse.”
“Jim was very strong,” he said, “but he pushed himself to the limits.” Kathy Lisciandro, for two years secretary for the Doors, is a former nurse at UCLA. She and her husband Frank, the film editor in Morrison’s informal film unit, “Hwy,” watched Jim tightwalk a 15-inch wide ledge atop the roof of the towering 9000 Building on Sunset, drunk, one night, for the film, Feast of Friends. “We used to call him the Human Fly. He’d have no regard for his physical body. He’d just abuse it. He’s fallen out windows – just in February he fell out two stories at the Chateau Marmont hotel – just playing.” Random injuries collected over the years, she said, may have weakened Morrison internally.
Morrison is survived by his parents, Rear Admiral George and Clara Morrison, Andy, a younger brother, and Anne, a younger married sister. The parents live in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., where Morrison’s father works at the Pentagon. Siddons notified them of their estranged son’s death by phone. “We knew he was in Paris,” his mother said before she got official word, “but we haven’t heard from him since he arrived.” Neither she nor her other children knew about Jim until Siddons returned from the funeral to make the announcement.
In a will drawn up in February, 1969, said Max Fink, Jim’s attorney, Morrison left everything to Pamela. His estate, Fink said, was “substantial,” including ASCAP royalties, song copyrights, and investments made for him by his business manager. Morrison may never have even known it, but he was, among other things, part-owner of a trailer camp. After Pam, Morrison named his brother and sister.
Pamela returned to Los Angeles with Siddons and, at last report, was still in shock.
Morrison’s parents were also unavailable for comment after hearing the news. A long-time family friend, Navy Captain Baylor Brown, intercepted calls and said only that Admiral and Mrs. Morrison were “extremely upset” and planned no separate memorial services for their son. “They feel he had been buried in a fine cemetery in Paris,” Capt. Brown said.
Morrison is, in fact, buried in one of Paris’ oldest and best-known cemeteries. The Pere Lachaise is the final resting grounds for numerous celebrated men and women of arts and the letters, among them Balzac, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf.
And, in at least a figurative sense, Jim Morrison picked his own gravesite. Said Siddons: “He and a friend had been walking through there a week before, and it seemed perfectly appropriate. Even if he’d died at home in L.A., we might’ve sent him there.”
Read more at: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/james-douglas-morrison-poet-dead-at-27-40343/
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