The Deadly Beat
March 22, 1687 - Jean-Baptiste Lully, the Italian composer whose fast-tempoed music livened up the court of France's Louis XIV, died on this day after a 3-month battle with an infection that started with a smashed toe.
During Lully's life he composed many ballets for the king. Some of his works featured movements in which Louis XIV and/or Lully himself would dance. Lully also collaborated with the comic dramatist Moliere.
The beginning of the end was on January 8th, 1687 when Lully joined an extravagant celebration of Louis XIV's recovery from an illness. As Lully conducted a Te Deum (hymn of praise for the king) he was keeping the beat by pounding a long, heavy staff against the floor. Somehow his foot got in the way and he quickly developed an abscess on his toe. As gangrene set in, Lully refused to have the toe amputated and the infection eventually killed him.