Did a car crash cause Ravel’s early death?

Did a car crash cause Ravel’s early death?


norman lebrecht

July 13, 2021

The invalidity and early death of the exquisite French composer may have been caused by the whiplash after-effects of being knocked down by a Paris taxi, travelling at low speed.

Research in the Archiv für Kriminologie,by Andreas Otte, a whiplash specialist at Offenburg University, focuses on a night in October 1932 when Ravel, returning to his Paris hotel, was thrown into the back of a seat by a collision, losing several teeth and spending several days in bed. Otte contends that he suffered spinal damage with neurological complications that led to memory loss and general decline.

Ravel died on December 28, 1937, aged 62.

Story source here.


  • M McAlpine says:

    I thought this was a generally accepted fact

    • Jean says:

      Not really. He got clean papers from the doctors after the crash. In fact, Ravel had been suffering of poor health and insomnia already for many, many years before the crash resorting to various “medicines” with hardly any help. (After an extremely productive decade of the 1910s, Ravel wrote very few new works between his La Valse and the Violin Sonata, mainly due to poor health.) However, the symptoms did start to get worse after the crash.

  • Dan Oren says:

    Chronic subdural hematoma was probably the cause of his neurological deterioration (and indeed caused by that trauma). Nothing to do with a spinal damage.

  • Neowise says:

    This is nonsense. Ravel probably had a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the brain, likely primary progressive aphasia. A “whiplash” injury has no relevance to this. There is an excellent review of the history of Ravel’s final illness by Henson in British Medical Journal in 1988, including the findings of Ravel’s neurologist, Alajouanine, and of Clovis Vincent, who operated on him. Vincent operated on the right side of Ravel’s brain even though the symptoms were suggestive of left brain problems. But he found the pressure to be very low and no abnormalities of the brain surface, which would be consistent with a neurodegenerative disease. Note that Andreas Otte is not a neurologist but works in biomedical engineering.

    • Dan oren says:

      Low pressure on the right hemisphere is not in contradiction with a left chronic subdural hematoma, but a right craniotomy might have worsened Ravel’s condition.