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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Paris's love affair with Morrison
Former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek
Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek pays his respects
By the BBC's Hugh Schofield

He would have been 57 if he hadn't died in a bath-tub in a flat near the Bastille.

But he did, so the memory remains engraved of a chestnut-haired Lothario in leather trousers. A 20th Century Apollo.

On Tuesday the crowds turned out in their thousands to pay their respects on the 30th anniversary of rock legend Jim Morrison's death.

Fans flocked to the grave
Fans flocked to the grave
Police were sent to the graveside in Paris's Pere-Lachaise cemetery to cope with the crush.

A long file solemnly drifted past, dropping flowers or scribbled messages on folded-up pieces of paper.

A whiff of marijuana hung in the air.

Few of the worshippers could have been alive when their hero sang his last in 1971. Many could be his grandchildren. Clearly it made no difference.

'Wild beast'

"As soon as I heard The Doors I was hooked," said Gregory, an 18-year-old from the Normandy city of Rouen.

"It's Morrison's personality. He was a poet, a sex-symbol, a wild beast. Someone real."

His girlfriend Annie carried a book of Morrison's poems.

"They are the work of a mind on drugs. Sometimes they are a little obscure, I agree. But I adore them."

Perhaps 50% of those genuflecting at the shrine were foreigners - holiday-makers for whom this has become part of the ritual of a visit to Paris.

But the French themselves have always had a particular affection for the singer - because he paid them the singular honour of coming to their country to die.

'Deification'

Morrison came to France in early 1971 to escape, he told friends, the frenzied celebrity lifestyle that was forced upon him in the United States.

In Paris, he hoped for peace and to rediscover his poetic muse.

He failed, but the French love him for trying.

At the Pere-Lachaise - amid the tombs of the Paris bourgeoisie and beneath a sky of Mediterranean blue - the line of adepts looked more and more like a religious procession.

For this is, after all, a process of modern-day deification.

'Perfection'

Like Apollo, Morrison represents youth, love and poetry.

The marijuana is the incense of today. The scribbled notes are votive offerings.

Perhaps it was just like this that some beautiful harpist from the Aegean was transformed via the collective memory into a godhead.

And in Paris, beneath the graffiti-strewn slab, the candles and the fading blooms, lies not the decaying body of an alcohol-raddled narcissist, but an ideal of perfection - as ancient as human life itself.

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See also:

03 Jul 01 | Music
Fans flock to Morrison's grave
30 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Doors open their vaults
27 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Morrison to 'rest in peace'
21 Mar 00 | Entertainment
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