The Last Known Photos of Jim Morrison, Taken Days Before His Death in Paris (June 1971)

It’s got to be one of my favorite ledes of all time: “The Doors leg­end Jim Mor­ri­son ‘faked his own death’ and is liv­ing as an aging home­less hip­py in New York, accord­ing to a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist.”

This dead­pan gem from wacky UK tabloid Express might con­vince the cred­u­lous, with its pho­to spread com­par­ing white-beard­ed “Richard”—the aged, sup­pos­ed­ly re-sur­faced Morrison—with those of Mor­ri­son in his last years: beard­ed, bloat­ed, and look­ing ten years old­er.

These are often the images we remem­ber, but the pho­tos in the video mon­tage above (set to some inex­plic­a­bly un-Door-sy music that you might want to mute) show us a more youth­ful, clean-shaven, baby-faced, and much health­i­er lizard king, trav­el­ing through Paris with his girl­friend Pamela Cour­son and their friend Alain Ron­ay, who took the pho­tos on June 28th, 1971. (See a pho­to spread here at Vin­tage Every­day.)

Mor­ri­son was “clear­ly not in a good way,” writes Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock, “when he head­ed off for Paris,” but in these images, he appears ful­ly ready to embark on a new career as a pub­lished poet instead of join­ing the “27 Club,” as he would just days lat­er, when Cour­son awoke to find him dead in the bath­tub of their Paris apart­ment on July 3rd.

Part of the rea­son fans have dogged­ly held on to the the­o­ry Mor­ri­son faked his death has to do with the mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing that discovery–the “nag­ging­ly non-spe­cif­ic ‘heart fail­ure’” ascribed as the cause by French author­i­ties, the lack of an autop­sy, and the “dozens of rumors—many of them unfound­ed” that pro­lif­er­at­ed around the mys­tery.

It turns out that cir­cum­stances of Jim Morrison’s death were sor­did­ly pre­dictable, if we believe one­time Doors pub­li­cist Dan­ny Sug­er­man, who wrote in his 1989 mem­oir Won­der­land Avenue about con­ver­sa­tions with Cour­son, who “stat­ed that Mor­ri­son had died of an acci­den­tal hero­in over­dose, hav­ing snort­ed what he believed to be cocaine,” writes The Vin­tage News.

Her account is sup­port­ed by the con­fes­sion of Alain Ronay—in a 1991 issue of Paris Match, where many of these pho­tos appeared—who wrote that Cour­son nod­ded off instead of get­ting help for Mor­ri­son. Ron­ay also describes in his account (read it in full, trans­lat­ed, here), how he and film­mak­er Agnes Var­da helped mis­lead author­i­ties as to Morrison’s iden­ti­ty, cov­ered up his pri­or drug use, threw the press off track, and guid­ed the inves­ti­ga­tion away from the drugs and Courson’s involve­ment.

Ron­ay seems cred­i­ble enough, but what­ev­er the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Morrison’s death, it’s clear he had a lot of writ­ing left in him. In his last inter­view with Rolling Stone, he talked about his poet­ry and his admi­ra­tion for Nor­man Mail­er and revealed he’d been work­ing on a screen­play. While in Paris, he made sev­er­al record­ings of his poet­ry with some unnamed musi­cians. Last year, a hand­writ­ten poem found in his Paris apart­ment went up for auc­tion. Its final, omi­nous line read, “Last words, Last words out.”

via The Vin­tage News/Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“The Lost Paris Tapes” Pre­serves Jim Morrison’s Final Poet­ry Record­ings from 1971

The Doors Play Live in Den­mark & LA in 1968: See Jim Mor­ri­son Near His Charis­mat­ic Peak

A Young, Clean Cut Jim Mor­ri­son Appears in a 1962 Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­mo Film

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


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Comments (4)
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  • Lucy says:

    I guess we can’t do any­thing against romors

  • Paris Mojo says:

    Con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, Jim Mor­ri­son did not record any music or poet­ry in Paris. This fact was proven by the stel­lar research by The Doors Guide: “The Secret Behind The Lost Paris Tapes”.

  • Gail d stedino says:

    I loved Jim Mor­ri­son since I was 13 years old. I am 67 years old now. He died on my birth­day July 3. I miss him so much. RIP lizard king.

  • Mark L King says:


    Great pho­tos!

    Still a good look­ing guy and well dressed and clean!

    Of course, the indul­gences show on his face but not the ruin I expect­ed!

    I hope he real­ly is still alive and hap­py some­where!

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