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25 Years Later, Morrison Fans Remember

Pop music: Hundreds of people from around the world pay respects at a Paris cemetery to honor the Doors' iconoclastic singer-songwriter.

July 04, 1996|DEAN ADAMS | ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARIS — Coming from across Europe, the United States and Japan, fans left flowers and pictures of themselves at the grave of Jim Morrison to commemorate his death 25 years ago Wednesday in his Paris apartment.

Riot police provided security at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in northeastern Paris, allowing 100 fans at a time around the simple grave site that reads "James Douglas Morrison 1943-1971."

At least 200 others waited outside, smoking pot, drinking and playing Doors songs on the guitar.

Buried beside some of France's greatest cultural heroes--Honore de Balzac and Edith Piaf among them--the final resting spot for the Doors' lead singer still attracts the most visitors.

American singer Patti Smith silently left a bouquet of small white lilies as other fans bearing candles and mementos filed past, dressed in tie-dyed or black shirts, ripped jeans and punk or grunge regalia.

"I come out here because this is like a religion for me," said Emily Charon, a 13-year-old from Canada wearing a black Doors concert shirt.

"Of course, I would rather see him in person but he still lives somewhere, I don't know where, through his music maybe," she said.

Though theories that Morrison is alive and in Africa still circulate, authorities have no doubt he died on July 3, 1971, in the historic Marais district of Paris.

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The poet/rock star, just 27 when he was found dead in a bathtub from what officials ruled was a heart attack, stirred many in his generation with his ability to relate the malaise of an age.

"Jim's fans see him as a prophet," said Phil Cousineau, who co-wrote the biography "Riders on the Storm" with Doors drummer John Densmore.

"He came in the midst of a war that didn't make sense and basically told people that the world they'd inherited was a lie," Cousineau said in a telephone interview from San Francisco.

After years of quiet contemplation around Morrison's grave, commemorations turned rowdy in 1991. Since then, riot police have been called in to make sure there's no beer-bottle throwing or bonfires--and to evict the laggards when the cemetery closes at 6 p.m.

The graffiti has been cleaned up, so the area is now under tight but discreet surveillance with video cameras to prevent alcohol and drug abuse.

Since the 1991 release of film director Oliver Stone's "The Doors," which focused mainly on Morrison, thousands have visited his grave site.

A California band, the Doors first made its mark with the single "Light My Fire," which hit the top of the rock charts in the late 1960s.

The band went on to record a string of hits and best-selling albums until the early '70s, when Morrison, sick and exhausted from alcohol and drugs, retired to Paris to write poetry.

Morrison is among cultural idols who died untimely deaths and fascinated the French. T-shirts abound in Paris with the likenesses of Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Kurt Cobain.

"Morrison represents the power of a god that won't die," Cousineau said. "It's the story of the young god who dies, and yet lives on through his music."

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