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Jonathan Larson's cause of death explained: Tick, Tick... Boom! explores Rent composer's life

Eve Edwards June 11, 2021
jonathan larson death


Rent composer Jonathan Larson is the subject of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, Tick, Tick… Boom!

This year is panning out to be a big one for Lin-Manuel Miranda, what with the release of In The Heights this June and Tick, Tick… Boom! coming to Netflix later in 2021.

The film is adapted from Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical of the same name. It follows an aspiring composer, named Jon (played by Andrew Garfield), in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice.

With the trailer’s release this 10 June 2021, we are seeing a renewed interest in Jonathan Larson. So, let’s take a look at the life and death of Larson, one of the composers of the best musicals of all time.

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Exploring Jonathan Larson’s life and death

Jonathan Larson was born on 4 February 1960 in White Plains, New York, a city in Westchester County. After graduating from Adelphi University with an acting major, Larson moved to Lower Manhattan.

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Larson first found success with Superbia, which won the Richard Rodgers Production Award and the Richard Rodgers Development Grant. However, Superbia was never produced, leading to Larson’s own sense of failure.

In response to his feelings, Larson wrote Tick, Tick… Boom!, exploring his worries about pursuing composing as a career. Jonathan Larson started performing Tick, Tick… Boom! as a solo piece at the New York Theatre Workshop and other stages, in the early Nineties.

In 1996, Jonathan Larson’s life was tragically cut short. He died on 25 January 1996 on the morning of Rent’s first preview performance Off-Broadway, after suffering an aortic dissection.

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Jonathan Larson’s cause of death explained: What is an aortic dissection?

An aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition. It is a tear in the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart (aorta). This means that blood can flow in between the layers of the blood vessel wall (dissection), leading to aortic rupture or decreased blood flow to organs.

Immediate treatment is required for an aortic dissection. Surgery is required to operate on the wall of the aorta, as well as medicine to reduce blood pressure.

There are a number of factors that can cause an aortic dissection. They include, but are not limited to, ageing, high blood pressure, familial history of aortic diseases, and smoking.

An aortic dissection can also be caused by more uncommon conditions such as Marfan syndrome, bicuspid aortic valve and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It has been suggested Jonathan Larson’s cause of death was the result of undiagnosed Marfan syndrome.

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What is Marfan syndrome?

Marfan syndrome is a “disorder of the body’s connective tissues, a group of tissues that maintain the structure of the body and support internal organs and other tissues”.

It is thought children usually inherit the disorder from one of their parents.

Typical characteristics of Marfan syndrome include being tall; having unusually long and slender limbs, fingers and toes; heart defects; lens dislocation.

It can be difficult to diagnose, as the severity of symptoms vary from person to person.

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Eve spends her days writing about everything culture-related. From celebrity news to music, film and television, Eve covers all bases. When she’s not writing you can find her making music or mastering the art of homemade pasta.