Stuart Sutcliffe dies

Stuart Sutcliffe, the brilliant young painter who was a bass guitarist with The Beatles in their early period, died on this day of a brain haemorrhage.

Stuart Sutcliffe

He had been suffering from increasingly severe headaches and blackouts since settling in Hamburg with Astrid Kirchherr, his German fiancée. The cause of these remained uncertain, though Sutcliffe believed they were a consequence of overwork.

In February he had collapsed during an art school class, and dropped out of education. The Kirchherr family suspected a brain tumour, and sent him for x-rays, although nothing amiss was found. Two doctors subsequently saw Sutcliffe but they too could find nothing wrong.

By March 1962 the headaches had grown in frequency, escalating at times to violent fits, and Sutcliffe often suffered temporary blindness. His moods were volatile, ranging from calm normality to suicidal mania. Most of the final two weeks of his life were spent in bed.

On 10 April Astrid Kirchherr received a call from her mother while working in her photography studio. She was told that Sutcliffe had collapsed once more and he was to be sent to the hospital.

Kirchherr rushed home to accompany him in the ambulance. Sutcliffe was already unconscious, and died in her arms during the journey to the hospital. The cause of death was listed as cerebral paralysis caused by bleeding in the right ventricle of the brain.

The precise nature of Sutcliffe’s health issues has never been determined, and there has been considerable speculation as to the causes. One theory is that a blow to the head during a fight, possibly with John Lennon, led to the haemorrhage.

However, the lengthy deterioration in Sutcliffe’s health make cerebral bleeding through injury an unlikely scenario. It is more probable that Sutcliffe died as a result of an aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation (AVM), both of which are congenital disorders.

Last updated: 8 April 2019
The Beatles live: Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool
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