|Christopher Marlowe (anonymous)|
The Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered when he was 29. The rapper Tupac Shakur of Digital Underground fame, when he was 25. Both produced great works of art that evolved out of the violent world that would eventually destroy them and both were dashing looking romantic characters. Marlowe was of course famous for Doctor Faustus, his great interpretation of the Mephistopheles myth. Shakur, who went on to have major fame on his own, began as a backup and MC for Digital Underground, whose Humpty Dance is a paen to the bargains human beings make in the service of human appetite. Humpty sells his soul in a Burger King bathroom. Of course Shelley died at 29 when his boat capsized and then there's "the 27 Club" of which the rocker Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain were members. “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” says Lao Tzu and you only have to think about Rimbaud the ultimate infant terrible who died at 37. And then there are Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse, but the connection between Tupac and Marlowe is striking to the extent that both were cosmopolitan urbane poets, with one foot in and one foot out of some very grisly neighborhoods. Tupac got caught up in the famed East Coast/West Coast rapper wars of which Notorious B.I.G. was also a victim at 24. Marlowe courted controversy of a different kind, as a spy and atheist, both of which may have contributed to his early demise.