With the latest The Doors album, L.A. Woman, almost in the can leading man of the band Jim Morrison, AKA The Lizard King, finished his session with a whispered lyric run on the album track ‘Riders On The Storm’, he was leaving for Paris the next day. Little did he or the band know but that would be the last time Morrison would sing in public. Jim would sadly succumb to a heroin overdose in July 1971, at the tender age of 27.
Shortly before that, on June 28th 1971, Jim Morrison with girlfriend Pamela Courson, and their photographer friend, Alain Ronay, took a day trip to Saint-Leu-d’Esserent, north of Paris. Ronay documented the trip with a joyful glee and unbeknownst to him gave us the last ever images of Jim Morrison alive.
Morrison was in Paris following the conclusion of recording L.A. Woman, the album which critics would go on to hail as one of their best and a mark of the band’s poetic and powerful position in the musical world. He’d decided to fly to Europe to get away from the certain set of ‘friends’ he had gathered around him in California.
“What a good idea, man,” said Ray Manzarek when Morrisson announced he was leaving for France. Manzarek himself wanted to encourage Morrison to get out of the cyclical intensity of the Hollywood crowd. “They were sucking up his energy, sucking up his essence” Manzarek would later say.
Jim left for Paris the next day asking the band to finish up the recordings without him. He was to arrive at a flat set up by girlfriend Pam, who was also a huge influence in making the rock star settle down in the French capital, to get him to write again. He settled quickly into the life of wine, smoke, cheese, and the bread that Paris always provides. Despite calls from the band in June of that year to take the new music on the road, Jim was finding the benefit of Parisian life and put off the suggested tour for “a little longer yet”.
Later in the month, over those days in June, Ronay followed Pam and Jim as they holidayed in northern Paris. Morrison was seen at the Le Mazet bar and at a movie theater called Action Lafayette, where he reportedly saw a Robert Mitchum film titled Pursued.
The images shared here are that of a happy man. An artist finding his feet once again and enjoying being just that: an artist. A new record in the bag, a new contract ready to go, Jim was no longer a ‘rock star’, he was no longer hindered by hangers-on or ‘associates’, this was Jim reborn and looking ready to be The Doors leading man once again. But it was never to be.
Morrison’s body was discovered at an apartment he had rented on Rue Beautreillis on July 3, 1971, after an apparent heroin overdose. His remains are found in the historical Parisian graveyard Pere Lachaise and it remains a focal point for fans’ grief
Find some wonderful insights from this candid interview with the late great Ray Manzarek