Julee Cruise, a singer who brought a memorably ethereal voice to director David Lynch’s projects — most famously ‘Falling,’ the instrumental version of which was the theme for Mr. Lynch’s cult TV show, ‘Twin Peaks’ — is died Thursday in Pittsfield, Mass. She was 65 years old.
Her husband, Edward Grinnan, said the cause was suicide. He said she had battled depression as well as lupus.
Ms. Cruise was building a career on Broadway in the early 1980s when chance struck: she met composer Angelo Badalamenti when they worked on a show together.
“I was in this country and western musical in the East Village,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990. “I was a chorus girl with a big skirt and a big wig, singing way too loud. Angelo was doing the music for the show and we became friends.
A few years later, Mr. Badalamenti was hired by Mr. Lynch, who was still at the start of his career, as Isabella Rossellini’s voice coach in Lynch’s 1986 film “Blue Velvet” and ended up writing the score of this film as well. . Mr. Lynch and Mr. Badalamenti had written a song for the movie that needed a singer.
“Angelo asked me to find someone to sing a song for the soundtrack called ‘Mysteries of Love,’ but he didn’t like any of the singers I recommended,” she told The Chronicle. . “He wanted to be dreamy and romantic. I said, ‘Leave it to me.’
Ms. Cruise had always considered herself a “belt,” as she often said (she once played Janis Joplin in a musical revue called “Beehive”), but the voice she found for “Mysteries of Love” was something entirely different, enigmatic and vaporous. It suited this and other Lynch-Badalamenti compositions perfectly. One writer called her style “the voice of an angel on Quaaludes”.
The three soon collaborated on Ms. Cruise’s debut album, “Floating Into the Night,” which featured songs by both men, including “Mysteries of Love” and “Falling.” They also collaborated on a stage production called “Industrial Symphony No. 1”, shown at the New Music America festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November 1989, with Ms. Cruise performing amidst an elaborate set including an old car.
“Often Mrs. Cruise floated high above the stage like a bleached-blonde angel in a ballgown,” Jon Pareles wrote in his New York Times review. “At one point his body fell to the ground and was piled into the trunk of the car by helmeted workers; she later reappeared to face a video camera and sing “Tell Your Heart It’s Me”, as 10 backing vocalists in gold lamé danced beside her image on TV screens.
National exposure came the following April when “Twin Peaks” premiered on ABC, with an instrumental version of “Falling” serving as the theme. Ms. Cruise appeared in the pilot and subsequent episodes as a relay singer.
The show quickly became the talk of television, and in May 1990 it led to an appearance by Ms. Cruise on “Saturday Night Live”. She wasn’t in the original lineup, but controversial comedian Andrew Dice Clay (he called himself “the most vulgar and vicious comedian that ever walked the face of the earth”) was the scheduled host, leading to protests from at least one actor, Nora Dunn, who refused to appear in this episode and had original musical guest, Sinead O’Connor, dropped out at the last minute.
Ms. Cruise was one of two acts slated to replace her. Mr Grinnan said in a telephone interview that Ms Cruise, who was still not well known, was working as a waitress at the time and had to give up her job. But, he noted, she didn’t call in sick.
“She said she called it famous,” he said.
Although “Twin Peaks” brought Ms Cruise wide exposure, Mr Grinnan said she found a stint touring with the B-52s in the 1990s particularly enjoyable. She replaced Cindy Wilson, an original member, when Ms. Wilson took a break from the band.
“It was probably the happiest performance of his life,” Mr. Grinnan said.
Julee Ann Cruise was born on December 1, 1956, in Creston, Iowa, to Wilma and Dr. John Cruise. Her father was a dentist and her mother was her office manager.
Ms Cruise was something of a French horn musical prodigy, her husband said, and earned a degree in music from the instrument from Drake University in Iowa. He said she applied the delicacy and phrasing of the classic French horn to the voice she dreamed up for the Lynch projects.
But once she graduated, she thought acting and singing would be more appealing than playing in an orchestra. She went to Minneapolis, a good city for theater, and spent several years performing with the Children’s Theater Company before moving to New York around 1983.
After “Twin Peaks”, Ms. Cruise made another album with Mr. Lynch and Mr. Badalamenti, “The Voice of Love” (1993). She also continued to perform. Mr Grinnan said it was his performance in an Off Broadway musical, ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’, in 1991 that caught the attention of the B-52s. Mel Gussow, reviewing this show for The Times, said it stood out.
“Only Julee Cruise invigorates the show with musical personality,” he wrote. “Well known for her vocals on ‘Twin Peaks,’ she’s as spunky as she is fun, though the script recklessly keeps her offstage for most of the first act.”
Ms. Cruise went on to tour with Bobby McFerrin and worked with electronic musicians like Marcus Schmickler. In 2003, she fulfilled a longtime goal of performing at New York’s Public Theater when she was cast in the musical “Radiant Baby,” about graffiti artist Keith Haring.
It was a demanding mission. As The Times wrote, she played “Andy Warhol, Haring’s mother, demonic nurse and critic who looks like Susan Sontag.”
Which of the roles was the most difficult, asked a journalist?
“The costume changes,” she says. “I’m the oldest person in this cast.”
Ms. Cruise alternated between homes in Manhattan and the Berkshires. Besides her husband, whom she married in 1988, she is survived by a sister, Kate Coen.
Ms. Cruise reprized her role as ‘Twin Peaks’ in ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’, the 1992 Mr. Lynch film and, a quarter of a century later, in an episode of Showtime’s reboot of the TV series . In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2017, she reflected on her long “Twin Peaks” ride.
“It was so fun to be a part of something that just went boom!” she says. “You didn’t know it was going to do this. What a wonderful surprise life has in store for you.
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