July 3

This Day in History

Music

Jul 3, 1969:

Brian Jones and Jim Morrison die, two years apart to the day

Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones is found dead of an apparent accidental drowning on this day in 1969. Two years later to the day, in 1971, Jim Morrison dies of heart failure in a Paris bathtub.

For all the highly publicized brushes with the law that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would have in the late 1960s, it was the original leader of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, who was the group's original bad boy—who lived, in the words of Pete Townshend, "on a higher planet of decadence than anyone I would ever meet." A gifted musician, Jones helped create the sound of countless classic Stones tracks with his work on guitar, sitar, marimba and other instruments that were then considered exotic for rock and roll. But he also helped create the stereotype of the wasted rock star with his prodigious drug habit and his declining ability to contribute to the Stones' recordings. "At first Brian was the most interesting Stone," John Lennon recalled in a 1970 interview, "[but] he was one of them guys that disintegrated in front of you."

Unable to show up for recording sessions due to his drug habit, and unable to play properly on the occasions that he did, Brian Jones was also refused an entry visa to the United States in the spring of 1969 due to his recent drug conviction, upsetting plans for a fall tour of the States. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards fired him on June 8, and a little more than three weeks later, the 27-year-old Jones was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool at his home in Sussex. Rumors of foul play would persist for years among fans and conspiracy buffs, but the coroner's official ruling was "Death by misadventure," on July 3, 1969.

Two years later to the day, another 27-year-old rock star would die under uncertain circumstances: Jim Morrison. As the charismatic frontman of the iconic 1960s group The Doors, Jim Morrison created a template that charismatic frontmen are still emulating nearly half a century later. Young, good-looking and clad in skintight black leather pants, the Lizard King mesmerized a generation with his stage presence and his lyrics about funeral pyres and mystic heated wine. But the trippy mix of Nietzsche, Blake and Huxley that the young Dionysius peddled was usually filtered through heavy doses of bourbon and mescaline, or some other combination of alcohol and drugs.

While the precise circumstances of Morrison's death on July 3, 1971, are fuzzy enough to have fueled persistent rumors that he is still alive, what is known for certain is that he was found dead in the bathtub of the Paris apartment he was sharing with longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson. Because no evidence of foul play was found at the scene, and because Courson told French authorities that Morrison had not been using drugs, no autopsy was conducted, and "heart failure" was cited as the cause of death. In the years since his untimely death, Morrison's most prominent biographers, Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, have asserted that Morrison suffered an accidental heroin overdose that night, basing their claim on Courson's allegation that he was in fact using drugs sometime before her own death by overdose in 1974 .

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