Angelo Badalamenti, ‘Twin Peaks’ composer and David Lynch collaborator, dead at 85

An older, smiling man looks to the side and gives the thumbs-up sign during a musical performance
Angelo Badalamenti performs at the Music of David Lynch celebration at L.A.’s Theatre at Ace Hotel in April 2015.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

Angelo Badalamenti, the composer and David Lynch collaborator best known for scoring “Twin Peaks,” “Wild at Heart” and “Blue Velvet,” has died. He was 85.

“The family of composer Angelo Badalamenti confirms that he passed away December 11 of natural causes surrounded by his family,” Laura Engel of Kraft-Engel Management, his agent and dear friend since 2005, told The Times on Monday. “He was a loving husband, father and grandfather.”

Badalamenti and Lynch were longtime collaborators, with the composer once calling their relationship “my second-best marriage in the world.”


“Some of the happiest moments I’ve ever had have been working with Angelo,” Lynch told The Times’ Chris Willman in 1990 about his classically trained partner. “He’s got a big heart, and he allowed me to come into his world and get involved with music.

“When we started working together, instantly we had a kind of a rapport — me not knowing anything about music, but real interested in sound effects and mood. I realized a lot of things about sound effects and music working with Angelo, how close they are to one another.”

When David Lynch talks, in that naive but demanding surrealist Boy Scout way of his, Angelo Badalamenti listens--and, within moments, usually has the beginning of a melody in mind.

The two connected when Isabella Rossellini needed a vocal coach to help her with a song for the 1986 movie “Blue Velvet.” A producer suggested Badalamenti, who until then had worked on low-profile movies as well as doing commercial and theater work. He stayed to co-write the song “Mysteries of Love” for Julee Cruise.

Badalamenti stayed on to compose the entire orchestral score for “Blue Velvet” and appeared in the movie as a piano player under the professional name Andy Badale. The musician said he used the pseudonym early in his film career, until he saw “the beautiful names Rossellini and De Laurentiis, and then I started to go by Angelo Badalamenti.”

“When we were talking about the main title theme, David said, ‘It’s gotta be like Shostakovich, be very Russian, but make it the most beautiful thing, but make it dark and a little bit scary,’” Badalamenti said in 1990.

When his music was combined with Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” audiences got to experience a gorgeous melody atop a disturbing, abstract underlay.

Cruise’s association with Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti defined her career, providing her with her breakthrough hit, ‘Falling.’

“That’s the darker side, I guess, of me,” Badalamenti said. “I think the music that comes out of that is very beautiful. One of the things I just did for ‘Twin Peaks’ is 15 minutes long and called ‘The Lowest Circle in Hell.’ And it’s just very low, dark, sustained things that are so beautiful to me ... Maybe a little strange to others, but it’s transcendent to me,” he continued. “And I love putting those things as a bed against something maybe a little more palatable.”

The mostly instrumental “Soundtrack to Twin Peaks,” which featured primarily Badalamenti’s compositions along with three songs sung by Cruise, peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 album charts and was certified as a gold record with more than a half-million copies sold.

The composer also won the 1991 Grammy for pop instrumental performance for his “Twin Peaks Theme,” beating Kenny G, Phil Collins, Quincy Jones and Stanley Jordan.

At an afternoon rehearsal in downtown Los Angeles, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne was on his knees making noise.

Other films scored by Badalamenti include Lynch’s 2006 “Mulholland Drive,” Neil LaBute’s 2006 “The Wicker Man” starring Nicolas Cage, 1987’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” and the 2019 documentary “Koi,” about the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan.

Badalamenti was born March 22, 1937, in Brooklyn. He started piano lessons when he was 8 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958 and master’s in 1959 from the Manhattan School of Music.