The mesmerizing tinkling of the electric piano helping to create the sound of rain and thunder in Jim Morrison’s song Riders On The Storm held a private concert in my head. As we searched for his grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris I was surprised by this. Although I was a fan of Jim Morrison and the Doors, I had never purchased an album and I certainly didn’t listen to any of his songs leading up to our trip to the cemetery. Our daughter was in town visiting so I thought it would be something she and my husband would be interested in.
I shouldn’t have been surprised however that this song had seeped into my psyche over the years. Especially since two of my older sisters listened to the Doors on their fold up G.E. record player incessantly in the 60’s and 70’s. The sound quality far superior to the record player, was clear and smooth in my head. I wished Shae and Keray were privy to the same internal concert that I was at, although they did get to hear various songbird melodies floating out of the trees. Between the tweets and the warmth of the sun, we were all in a relaxed reflective state as we strolled the grounds not worrying about the map. The chills on my shoulders and arms lingered on this rare sunny day in early May but I didn’t want them or the music to end. Was it really Jim Morrison’s essence or just an overactive imagination? I didn’t really care, I was feeling something special that would disappear given too much attention.
James Douglas Morrison died 45 years ago at the age of 27 and his mysterious music lives on as strong as ever. Was it his passion for civil rights that still resonates with us so much in his lyrics today or the fact that they were never straight forward and you had to really dig into what he was saying to understand? It is personal for every Morrison fan but he and his band had the ability to create something complex and intangible yet relatable.
Bruce Botnick, the Doors’ band engineer, told Uncut Magazine in 2007 that it took only 2-3 takes to record Riders On The Storm. In the same article Ray Manzarek, the Doors’ keyboard player, said the song written by Morrison is about a hitchhiker who was a serial killer and also about love and spirituality. Now that is complicated. Your world on him depends/Our life will never end/Girl you gotta love your man. “Morrison felt we wouldn’t be here still in body, but our essence would never end and love is the answer to all things”.
Riders On The Storm was Morrison’s last studio recording before his 1971 death in Paris shortly after that. If you listen closely you can hear his whispered lyrics swirling slowly around the mysterious main vocals. The whispers ending as the storm fades. I hope you have found the answers Jim Morrison, wherever you ride.
Père Lachaise Cemetary: 16 Rue du Repos 75020 – 20th arrondissement of Paris – Closest Metro: Philippe Auguste – Jim Morrison’s grave: Division 6.
Hours of operation: Mon – Sat 8:00 am to 5:30 pm/Sun & Holidays 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Phone Number: 33 1 55 25 82 10
Link to map of the cemetery-graves of other notable artists www.perelachaisecemetery.com
Other helpful sites to check out when planning your trip to Paris:
(All photos by Dawn Robirtis unless noted)