Angels Dance and Angels Die

Revised for 2007! This softcover edition examines the turbulent relationship between legendary Doors front man Jim Morrison and his common-law wife, Pamela Courson, tracing the lives of Courson and Morrison before their fateful meeting in 1965, their lives together until Morrison’s death in 1971, and Courson‘s life without Morrison, including her fight to gain the rights to his estate until her death from a heroin overdose on April 25, 1974.

This is not a “fairytale”. This is a book Ms. Butler obviously did a lot of research on. There’s an extensive SOURCES section at the end of the book. For each chapter, everyone she interviewed, every source, is listed. Ray and Dorothy Manzarek, Robby Krieger, Julia Densmore-Negron, Bill (former Doors manager) Siddons, and many otheres in the Doors camp, too many to list here, are interviewed.

People who knew Jim and Pam as far back as elementary school are interviewed. It makes for a very interesting read. Since so many people who knew Jim and Pam are constantly quoted, this book never feels like a delusional fairytale. It’s not the biased POV of a single individual with an axe to grind, it’s the words of MANY people who knew Jim and Pam for years.
The book didn’t tell me anything about Pam‘s favorite bands, but I did get a sense of what drew her and Morrison together. They both came off as sort of “outcasts” in high school, rebels who didn’t fit in and refused to conform. There’s consistency here.


Sixties rock kingpin Jim Morrison personified the period’s allegiance to sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Butler reexamines his life, emphasizing his “cosmic mate” and common-law wife, Pamela Courson. More or less ignored by previous Morrison biographers, Pam and Jim’s relationship was relatively private and long term for a rock couple then and maybe for any couple anymore. A few years after Morrison’s 1971 death, Courson died of an apparent heroin overdose. In the finest rock tradition, the circumstances of her death were questionable and were not much investigated: “At that time, in that place, if it looked to us like someone had died of a drug overdose, frankly we thought they deserved it and didn’t waste our time on it,” said one police officer who asked to remain anonymous. Perhaps this well-referenced, moving book will spark yet another renewal of interest in Morrison. After all, as a 1980s Rolling Stone headline put it, “He’s hot, he’s sexy, he’s dead.” More of his strange story only makes him more so.

How one views this gossamer-thin account of the doomed Doors frontman and his equally troubled common-law wife rests largely on one’s (forgive the expression) “perception of the Doors.” This book will be tonic to those eager for more dish on the man they regard as the Rimbaud-esque cynosure of the angst-filled ’60s generation. Those baffled by Morrison’s fame–particularly the respect he received as a poet–will find this book supports, quite unintentionally, their contentions as well. It’s not that Butler didn’t do her homework; among the people she interviewed and sources she consulted are the Elektra Records A&R tyro Jac Holzman and the surviving members of the Doors, school and police records, and even medical journals. The problem rests chiefly with Butler’s subject. This story has in large part been told many times before, from many angles, and often to better effect. Readers, whether Doors fans or not, will have a tough time piecing events together chronologically, as this narrative only sketchily covers the background events that shaped and defined Jim and Pam’s world. Additionally, Butler seems to cast a sentimental and too often uncritical eye on the “tragic lovers’ ” relationship, neglecting to acknowledge that the two were essentially beautiful booze- and drug-addled twentysomethings with money to burn, and that their fatal flaw was not so much being at odds with the material world as it was never having been forced to confront it without help from agents, roadies, groupies, or sycophants. The Doors’ keyboardist and co- founder (with Jim), Ray Manzarek, claims that Pamela and Jim will “go down in history as great lovers,” and that their tale recalls Romeo and Juliet, Heloise and Abelard. Perhaps one could argue that a more fitting, albeit less flattering, comparison might be Sid (Vicious) and Nancy (Spungeon)



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