THE LIZARD KING: Mystery of Jim Morrison’s 1971 death endures

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Jim Morrison was no longer the rock ’n’ roll god he had been just four short years before.

Once the Doors singer was lithe and oozed bad-boy sex appeal. Now he was a bloated boozer living in quasi-exile in Paris.

Still, Morrison, then 27, was one of the most famous men in the world and a counterculture icon. The band had hit with Light My Fire, Touch Me, Love Me Two Times, Love Her Madly and scores of others.

As touring, trouble with the cops and the pressure of fame had burned him out, Morrison had decided to take a break with girlfriend Pamela Courson in Paris.

But on July 3, 1971, the rock icon was found dead in the bathtub by Courson in the apartment they rented at 17-19 Rue Beautreillis in Le Marais, 4th arrondissement.

Morrison and gal pal Pamela Courson in Paris.
Morrison and gal pal Pamela Courson in Paris. Photo by HANDOUT /RONAY

Even before the body was cold, the rumours began flying.

“I got a phone call and I didn’t believe it because we used to hear s— like that all the time, that Jim jumped off a cliff or something. So we sent our manager off to Paris, and he called and said it was true,” Doors guitarist Robby Krieger later said.


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Fifty years since Morrison’s death have not quelled the conspiracies — including that the singer did not die that night in 1971 and instead simply disappeared.

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Courson thought her famous boyfriend was playing a prank. She told cops the last thing she remembered the Lizard King saying was: “Are you there, Pam? Pam, are you there?”

She added that Morrison had a smile on his face when she found him.

The Doors were explosive.
The Doors were explosive. Photo by HANDOUT /ELEKTRA

But there were some things following the singer’s death that never made sense. According to Performing Songwriter magazine, Morrison’s corpse remained in the apartment packed in dry ice while Courson — who bought the star a $75 US coffin — had a doctor sign the death certificate.

Heart disease, said the doc, whose signature was illegible.


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No autopsy.

Morrison was buried in famed Pere La Chaise Cemetery on July 7, 1971. His body has never been exhumed.

Courson lied to detectives and said Morrison had no immediate family. That expedited the no-questions-asked burial.

Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek asked the band’s manager, Bill Siddons, who went to Paris: “How do you even know Jim was in the coffin? How do you know it wasn’t 150 pounds of f—— sand?”

A penchant for trouble.
A penchant for trouble. Photo by HANDOUT /DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SAFETY

Others have said Morrison took an accidental overdose when his junkie girlfriend switched their cocaine for heroin. But despite his wild reputation, Morrison didn’t truck with hard drugs (he hated needles).

“It’s not unusual when someone does heroin for the first time, for them to feel ill,” Doors insider Danny Sugerman told music magazine Mojo. “He was sick, he took a bath, he died. There was no more mystery than that.”


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In the intervening years since the — supposed — death of Mr. Mojo Risin in Paris, there have been unsubstantiated sightings of him in Tibet, Australia and, bizarrely, the U.S. Midwest.

And we can’t ask Courson: She died of a heroin overdose in 1974.

“We don’t know what happened to Jim in Paris. To be honest, I don’t think we’re ever going to know,” the late Manzarek said.

“Rumours, innuendoes, self-serving lies, psychic projections to justify inner needs and maladies, and just plain goofiness cloud the truth. There are too many conflicting theories.”


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