Jim Morrison Death

History Uncovered Episode 25:
The Death Of Jim Morrison And The Lingering Questions That Remain

Published September 29, 2023

Learn why some believe that foul play was involved in the death of Doors frontman Jim Morrison on July 3, 1971.

Sometime in the early morning hours of July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison — the iconic lead singer of The Doors — died of heart failure at the age of just 27. He was found by his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, unconscious in the bathtub of their Paris apartment.

Morrison had struggled in the months preceding his death. After shooting to fame with The Doors, whose hits “Light My Fire” and “Hello, I Love You” helped define American rock music of the 1960s, Jim Morrison had fallen from grace.

He grew ever more dependent on drugs and alcohol, clashed with the police, and was arrested in 1970 for allegedly exposing his genitals on stage in Florida. By 1971, Morrison seemed desperate for a reprieve. He left The Doors and escaped to Paris with Courson in hopes of finding calm away from the spotlight.

At first, Paris seemed to be agreeing with Morrison. Friends thought he looked fit, healthy, and happy. But everything changed that fateful morning in July.

In the official account of Jim Morrison’s death, he and Pamela Courson went to a movie before returning home and spending the remainder of the evening listening to records before going to bed. But during the night, he reportedly woke up coughing up blood, climbed into the bathtub — and died there of heart failure.

Jim Morrison And Pamela Courson

Estate of Edmund Teske/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesJim Morrison and Pamela Courson, who died of a heroin overdose herself in 1974.

When Courson found him, she called for help. But it was too late — Jim Morrison was dead at the age of 27.

Because the French authorities didn’t suspect foul play, they didn’t conduct an autopsy. A few days after his death, Morrison was promptly buried in Père Lachaise cemetery. His parents didn’t even know he was dead until after his funeral.

According to Courson, Morrison had actually died of a heroin overdose after taking what he thought was cocaine. Two of Morrison’s friends, however, say that when they saw Courson and Morrison on July 2, the couple had knowingly taken heroin after a night of drinking.

Then, more than 30 years after Jim Morrison’s death, a third version of the story emerged.

A former Paris rock club manager named Sam Bernett published a book claiming that he saw Morrison enter the bathroom of his club with two drug dealers around 1 a.m. on July 3, 1971.

When Morrison did not emerge, Bernett sent a bouncer to investigate. The bouncer kicked down the locked door of a stall and found Morrison dead. However, the drug dealers insisted that he was merely unconscious.

They carried him from the club — and Bernett posited they then took him home and put him in the bathtub in an attempt to revive him while Courson slept in the next room.

As more information about Morrison’s death emerges, the truth about his demise becomes less and less clear. Was it heart failure? A heroin overdose? Or something else altogether?

Go inside the enduring mystery behind the death of Jim Morrison.

Learn more about the music used in our podcast. History Uncovered is part of the Airwave Media network. Learn more about your ad choices by visiting megaphone.fm/adchoices.