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Culture Re-View: Tragic coincidences converge on this day in music

2Pac, Biggie, and Elton
2Pac, Biggie, and Elton Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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13 September 1996: Some deadly coincidences in 90s music

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On this day in 1996, Tupac Shakur died, six days after he’d been shot in a drive-by that remains unsolved 27 years later. We covered the mysterious murder of one of 90s raps’ brightest stars in the Re-View on the anniversary of it on 7 August last week.

Shakur was placed in an induced coma at the hospital and died from internal bleeding less than a week after the shooting. The day Shakur died has an almost eerie link to the release date of his greatest rival’s only studio album.

Ready to Die

Two years earlier, Christopher George Latore Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G., released ‘Ready to Die’ on 13 September 1994. Wallace had already gained traction for his guest features, but his debut album made him an international sensation.

Chronicling life as a young man navigating a criminal lifestyle in New York City, ‘Ready to Die’ is a classic part of East Coast hip-hop history. While the West Coast scene was thriving, it was part of an East Coast reinvigoration, featuring Method Man of the newly impressing Wu-Tang Clan and an early example of Lil’ Kim’s talents. Next to Nas’ 1994 debut ‘Illmatic’, West Coast rap was definitively back.

Wallace’s personal rivalry with Shakur is well documented. Though they started out as friends, they fell out when Shakur accused Wallace of him and ‘Ready to Die’ producer Sean “Diddy” Combs’ involvement in a shooting in 1994. They started releasing diss tracks and when Shakur was murdered, the public speculated that Wallace was involved.

Six months later, Wallace was murdered. On 9 March 1997, he was killed in a drive-by shooting that had sinister similarities to Shakur’s killing. It was just two weeks before the planned release of Wallace’s second album, the ominously named ‘Life After Death’. We listed it as one of the albums in our essential audio-history of hip-hop.

Candle in the Wind 1997

While the 2Pac/Biggie date coincidence is genuinely eerie, here’s another musical release on this day that confirms it as a cursed day for 90s stars. On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died in an infamous car crash in a Paris tunnel.

Moved by the news of the death of his personal friend, Elton John decided to re-record his 1973 song ‘Candle in the Wind’, co-written by Bernie Taupin.

Taupin re-wrote the lyrics and John recorded the new version. Instead of an ode to Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean), a superstar whose life John observed from afar, the new version placed John closer to Diana and referred to her place as “England’s Rose” who had “called out to our country” and “whispered to those in pain.”

John only ever performed the 1997 version once, at Diana’s funeral on 6 September 1997. It is the second highest-selling single of all time.

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