PARIS, DEC. 8 -- As long as I got breath, the death of rock

Is the death of me

-- Jim Morrison

Gently they stir, gently rise

The dead are newborn awakening

With ravaged limbs and wet souls

-- Jim Morrison

Two different Jim Morrisons turned 50 here today.

There was Jim Morrison the lead singer of the Doors -- the rebel, the alcoholic, the self-absorbed exhibitionist who died in a drunken stupor at age 27. His followers, those who worship him as an everlasting symbol of reckless, youthful excess, came to his graveside to drink and smoke and reminisce about a man they never knew.

Then there was Jim Morrison -- or rather, James Douglas Morrison -- the poet, the filmmaker, the shy intellectual who apparently planned to live forever. That person, largely unknown until now, was honored by friends and fans in dignified performances, poetry readings and photo exhibits around the French capital.

The real Jim Morrison is anybody's guess.

At Pere Lachaise cemetery in northern Paris, where Morrison's tomb has been an adolescent shrine practically since his death in July 1971, hundreds of young fans celebrated his birthday with a mix of pensive sincerity and hippy-era nostalgia.

"Jim Morrison is a kind of legend for us," said 14-year-old Fanny Candilis, from Paris. "He was from a desperate generation, and we don't have a lot of hope {either}. It's true -- I have no hope. That's what he was about."

"He was someone who told us that we don't have to believe in the lie of life," said Thomas Niemeyer, a 20-year-old German who drove from his village near Muenster for the occasion. Perched on a tomb, he uncorked a bottle of white wine with a friend. "We have to build on our own understanding, not just believe what other people tell us." But he added, "I don't think Jim Morrison would be interesting if he were alive today."

The singer's grave, surrounded by more than 20 years of graffiti, was heaped with photographs, messages, masses of single flowers and an arrangement of red roses. A bottle of whiskey sat among the petals. Incense and candles burned along the edges of the headstone, near a hand-scrawled note: "We still love you, break on through, Alix."

Onlookers, dressed mostly in black leather jackets and jeans, stared in silent thought or shared cigarettes and arguments. A couple with magenta hair made out in a corner.

Standing nearby, an old friend of Morrison's, Georgia Ferrera, was horrified. She had come from Los Angeles to help mark the singer's birthday, but also to set the record straight. "He was positive, totally positive, there was nothing negative about him," she said. "They've been desecrating his ideas -- they ought to read his poetry. I'm sure Jim would've wanted to sit and talk with these people."

Ferrera, who worked on two of Morrison's films, "A Feast of Friends" and "Hwy," was not the only one angered by his misconstrued legacy. Another friend, Frank Lisciandro, organized a performance and poetry reading at the Pompidou Center this evening with American actor John Phillip Law and French actor Tcheky Karyo. A documentary filmmaker, Lisciandro went to film school with Morrison at UCLA and photographed the Doors; he recently edited two books of Morrison's poetry.

"Jim was a creative human being who loved the arts and participated in them," Lisciandro said, calling Oliver Stone's 1991 movie "The Doors" "horrible." He went on: "He was gentle, compassionate, highly intelligent and articulate. He cared about his poetry more than anything else -- he only went into music as a way of incorporating his poetry."

True, Lisciandro said, Morrison was an alcoholic -- a disease his friends did not take seriously at the time -- and he was reckless onstage, which got him arrested for using obscene language in 1967 and for indecent exposure in 1969.

But Lisciandro insisted that Morrison did not have a death wish. "Jim always thought he'd live forever," he said. "He was a ledge-walker person -- we always thought he'd have a stupid accident. I was surprised {when he died}. Maybe he wasn't as good a prophet as he was a poet."

Prophet or poet, there is certainly a trend toward redefining the Morrison myth, if only because his baby-boom peers have become part of the intellectual and cultural Establishment. Many have come to view Morrison as a poet of some importance. In addition to Lisciandro's books, Wallace Fowlie, a Duke University professor and literary critic, will publish "Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet" next spring. Other universities now study Morrison's writings in literature courses.

The singer was, it seems, an intellectual. He read Freud and Jung; he was friends with novelist Michael McClure, with whom he wrote a screenplay. The name of the band even came from a line by poet William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed/ All things would appear infinite."

But these pursuits were eclipsed during Morrison's life by his wild success as a rock star. Born in Melbourne, Fla., to a family with a history of military careers, he attended film school at UCLA before forming the Doors in 1965 with Ray Manzarek.

Driven by Morrison's onstage sexual charisma, the band quickly had a string of No. 1 hits, among them "Light My Fire" and "Hello, I Love You." Four years later Morrison had descended into a world of excessive drugs, alcohol and sex. In 1971, after releasing the hit album "L.A. Woman," which included the song "Riders on the Storm," he escaped to Paris with his wife, Pamela, to write. It was here, in his apartment on the rue Beautrellis, that he died of a heart attack in a bathtub on July 3.

Whichever Jim Morrison prevails in memory, it is clear that the poet-rocker will have followers for a long time. "Jim Morrison is probably responsible for introducing more young people to poetry and literature -- certainly than any other rock star," said Kerry Humpherys, who came from Orem, Utah, to mark the birthday. Humpherys recently started publishing a quarterly magazine about the Doors. "He means so many different things to different people. There are so many faces of Jim -- and they're all the real one."