Julee Cruise, ‘Twin Peaks’ singer and David Lynch collaborator, dies at 65
Julee Cruise, the ethereal singer who performed the theme song “Falling” for David Lynch’s surrealistic 1990s soap opera “Twin Peaks,” died Thursday. She was 65.
According to a Facebook post from her husband, Edward Grinnan, Cruise “left this realm on her own terms. No regrets. She is at peace.” Grinnan told NPR that Cruise died by suicide and had struggled with “lupus, depression and alcohol and drug addiction.”
Cruise’s delicate vocals provided a dreamy, eerie counterpoint to the lush orchestrations of Angelo Badalamenti, the composer who was a collaborator of director Lynch. Cruise’s association with Badalamenti and Lynch defined her career, providing her with her breakthrough hit, “Falling” — a variation of Badalmenti’s instrumental “Twin Peaks” theme — and steady work until the end of her life. Cruise also toured occasionally with the B-52’s, filling in for an absent Cindy Wilson.
Upon learning of Cruise’s death, Lynch posted a tribute to the singer on YouTube: “I just found out that the great Julee Cruise passed away. Very sad news. So it might be a good time to appreciate all the good music she made and remember her as a great musician, great singer and great human being.”
Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, tweeted, “dad would put [Cruise’s album] ‘Floating Into the Night’ on almost every night as ‘dinner music.’ A staple.”
A native of Creston, Iowa, Cruise was born Dec. 1, 1956. She was drawn to the arts at an early age, acting and playing the French horn while in high school. After graduating from Drake University, she spent time with the Des Moines Symphony but felt pulled toward the theatrical stage. Leaving behind the French horn, she then moved to Minneapolis, where she became part of the Guthrie Theater and, by the early 1980s, was a member of the Children’s Theatre Company.
By the mid-1980s, Cruise had relocated to New York, settling in the East Village. She appeared as Janis Joplin in a production called “Beehive” prior to joining a theatrical workshop from Badalamenti. At the time, the composer was scoring Lynch’s postmodernist noir film “Blue Velvet.” Lynch intended to set a scene to This Mortal Coil’s spectral cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” but when the music rights proved too expensive, he asked Badalamenti to write an original song in a similar style. Badalamenti suggested Cruise as the singer for the resulting “Mysteries of Love,” which featured lyrics by Lynch.
“Mysteries of Love” kicked off a period of collaboration between Cruise, Badalamenti and Lynch that spanned records, stage and screen. The core of the collaboration was the original songs Badalamenti and Lynch wrote for “Floating Into the Night,” Cruise’s 1989 debut album. Much of this music was featured in “Industrial Symphony No. 1,” a Lynch theatrical production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music featuring Cruise, but it found a much wider audience when it appeared in “Twin Peaks,” the surreal soap opera Lynch developed for network television.
The series premiered on ABC in April 1990 and became a sensation, sweeping Cruise into the spotlight. “Falling,” the vocal variation of Badalamenti’s haunting theme song, reached charts in the U.K. and Europe, while “Floating Into the Night” became a cult hit in the U.S. Cruise often appeared on “Twin Peaks,” singing in the biker bar the Roadhouse, her soft, gentle presence providing a compelling contrast to the roughneck setting.
When Sinead O’Connor pulled out of “Saturday Night Live” in May 1990 as a protest over guest host Andrew Dice Clay, Cruise stepped in as a last-minute musical guest.
Cruise maintained a fruitful collaboration with Lynch and Badalamenti into the mid-1990s. After contributing a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” to the soundtrack of Wim Wenders “Until the End of the World,” the trio worked on her 1993 album, “The Voice of Love,” and she’d appear in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,” the 1992 film sequel to the television series. During this period, Cruise toured with the B-52’s while Cindy Wilson took a leave of absence to focus on family. Her husband would later say she found her time in the B-52’s to be “the happiest time of her performing life.”
Cruise’s solo career slowed in the late 1990s. She would appear onstage and occasionally collaborate in the studio with a host of other musicians — most prominent of these was an appearance on “White People,” the 2004 album by Handsome Boy Modeling School — but new music from her was rare. She released “The Art of Being a Girl,” her first album of self-penned material, in 2002, then waited nearly a decade to issue “My Secret Life,” a 2011 album produced by DJ Dmitry from Deee-Lite.
Cruise reunited with Lynch for “Twin Peaks: The Return,” appearing in its penultimate episode in 2017. A year later, she announced on Facebook she was retreating from live performance due to her diagnosis of systemic lupus.
Cruise is survived by her husband, Grinnan.
In the farewell note he posted on the B-52’s Facebook page, Grinnan wrote, “I played her ‘Roam’ during her transition. Now she will roam forever. Rest in peace, my love.”
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