It was today thirty years ago that rock legend and voice of an era Jim Morrison’s life ended in Paris and fans gathered today around his grave in Père Lachaise cemetery in order to pay tribute to The Doors’ legend thirty years on.
There was a strong security presence in and around the cemetery, as French police anticipated trouble, as has marred previous anniversaries. It was just a decade ago that drunken ‘fans’ stormed the cemetery gates when officials attempted to close the cemetery, at closing time. Embarrassing really.
The shrine has been visited by thousands of tourists who come to lay flowers and other tributes on the grave. I’ve visited Père Lachaise several times, not to see Morrison’s quite modest grave in particular but, as one of the most famous graveyards in the world, to see the graves of Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Bizet, Chopin Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein and her Alice B Toklas, and Morrison’s other famous neighbours.
Each time I visited I was saddened by the beer bottles, rolled spliffs, cigarettes and clumsily written tributes, obviously hastily scribed in a moment of drunken melancholia that crudely decorated his grave, as if the fact that they too have a drink problem makes them kindred spirits with the deceased artist. It was almost as if they were celebrating the lifestyle that killed him, rather than the musician himself. A bit like putting toy cars on a road accident victim’s grave. However, since alcohol has now been banned, the celebration today seemed more modest and peaceful than usual.
Jim Morrison and The Doors were the seminal psychedelic 60s group whose sound still continues to conjure up an era of musical, spiritual and sexual decadence that is sadly long gone (just the sex remains), and probably more so than any other band of that era. The singer’s unique vocals and electrifying sex appeal combined with tousled hair and animalistic stage presence did nothing to hamper the band’s success. His rugged good looks combined with sophisticated lyrics often of social importance and love of classical poetry and literature made him almost irresistible to young women of the era who were just enjoying the freedom of their spirituality and sexuality as if for the first time. Few songs conjure up an era as Light My Fire does the swinging, drug dazed, sexually ambiguous sixties.
In 1971 the singer defected to Paris to avoid the increasingly irksome groupies, escape his decadent lifestyle and so that he could focus on writing. Very sadly he was found dead in his bathtub three months later, aged just 27. The coroner pronounced a verdict of death by natural courses, despite other rumours of lethal cocktails of drugs, alcohol and asthma.
The Doors are another example of a seminal rock band of the calibre and with the longevity that we no longer see. There is no modern equivalent. Now that computers and surgery have made is easy for anyone to become an artist, model or songwriter, no one is doing anything very impressive anymore, and no one is very impressed by that. No one will be listening to Lady Gaga in fifty years. Well gees, I hope not.
If you have any comments about the above article or would like to dedicate a virtual spliff to the memory of Jim Morrison, roll one into the comments box below:
Images: blogs.ocweekly.com, communities.canada.com.