Julee Cruise, a singer who brought an unforgettably ethereal voice to director David Lynch’s projects — most famously Falling, whose instrumental version was the subject of Mr. Lynch’s cult-favorite television show Twin Peaks — died Thursday in Pittsfield, Mass . She was 65.
Her husband, Edward Grinnan, said the cause was suicide. He said she has struggled with both depression and lupus.
Ms. Cruise was building a career off-Broadway in the early 1980s when serendipity struck: she met composer Angelo Badalamenti while they were working on a show together.
“I was in this country western musical in the East Village,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990. “I was a chorus girl in a big skirt and a big wig and I sang way too loud. Angelo did the music for the show and we became friends.”
A few years later, Mr. Badalamenti was hired by Mr. Lynch, who was just starting out in his career, to coach Isabella Rossellini in the 1986 Lynch film Blue Velvet, and eventually wrote the film’s music. Mr. Lynch and Mr. Badalamenti had written a song for the film 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 to him,” she told The Chronicle. “He wanted dreamy and romantic. I said, ‘Let me do that.’”
Ms. Cruise had always described herself as “a belt woman,” as she often put it (she once played Janis Joplin in a musical revue called “Beehive”), but the voice she invented for “Mysteries of Love.” , it was something else entirely, enigmatic and wispy. It went perfectly with this and other compositions by Lynch-Badalamenti. One author called her style “Angel-on-Quaaludes singing”.
The three were soon working on Ms. Cruise’s debut album, Floating Into the Night, which featured songs by the two men, including “Mysteries of Love” and “Falling.” They also worked on a stage production entitled Industrial Symphony No. 1″ performed at the New Music America Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November 1989, with Ms. Cruise performing in the midst of a lavish set with a vintage car.
“Often Ms. Cruise would soar far above the stage like a blond angel in a ball gown,” wrote Jon Pareles in his New York Times review. “At one point her body fell to the ground and was packed into the trunk of the car by helmeted workers; She later resurfaced to face a video camera and sing ‘Tell Your Heart I Am’ while 10 chorus girls in gold lamé danced alongside her image on TV screens.”
National prominence came the following April when “Twin Peaks” premiered on ABC, using an instrumental version of “Falling” as the theme. Ms. Cruise appeared as a roadhouse singer in the pilot and subsequent episodes.
The show quickly became the talk of television and led to an appearance by Ms. Cruise on Saturday Night Live in May 1990. She wasn’t in the original cast, but controversial comedian Andrew Dice Clay (he called himself “the most vulgar, vicious comedian to ever walk the face of the earth”) was the proposed host, prompting protests from at least one cast member Nora Dunn , who refused to perform in this episode and caused the original musical guest, Sinead O’Connor, to drop out at the last minute.
Ms. Cruise was one of two people called to replace her. Mr Grinnan said in a telephone interview that Ms Cruise, who was not well known, was working as a waitress at the time and had to skip her job. But, he noted, she didn’t call in sick.
“She said she called famous,” he said.
Although “Twin Peaks” made Ms. Cruise widely known, Mr. Grinnan said that she found touring in the B-52s in the 1990s particularly enjoyable. She replaced Cindy Wilson, an original member, when Ms. Wilson took a hiatus from the band.
“It was probably the happiest performance of her life,” said Mr. Grinnan.
Julee Ann Cruise was born on December 1, 1956 in Creston, Iowa to Wilma and Dr. Born John Cruise. Her father was a dentist and her mother his office manager.
Ms. Cruise was something of a musical prodigy on the French horn, her husband said, and received a music degree in that instrument from Drake University in Iowa. He said she applied the delicacy and phrasing of the classic French horn to the voice she developed for the Lynch projects.
But after graduating, she thought acting and singing would be more appealing than playing in an orchestra. She went to Minneapolis, a good theater town, and performed there with the Children’s Theater Company for several years 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 kept playing. Mr Grinnan said it was her performance in an off-Broadway musical Return to the Forbidden Planet in 1991 that caught the B-52’s attention. Mel Gussow, who reviewed this show for The Times, said it caught the eye.
“Only Julee Cruise enlivens the show with musical personality,” he wrote. “She’s well remembered for her singing on ‘Twin Peaks,’ she’s both spunky and fun, although the script unwisely kept her offstage for most of the first act.”
Ms. Cruise later toured with Bobby McFerrin and worked with electronic musicians such as Marcus Schmickler. In 2003, she fulfilled her long-held desire to perform at the Public Theater in New York when she was cast in the musical “Radiant Baby,” about graffiti artist Keith Haring.
It was a demanding task. As The Times wrote, she played “Andy Warhol, Haring’s mother, a demonic nurse and a critic who resembles Susan Sontag”.
Which of the roles was the hardest, a reporter asked?
“The costume changes,” she said. “I’m the oldest person in this cast.”
Ms. Cruise moved between homes in Manhattan and the Berkshires. In addition to her husband, whom she married in 1988, she is survived by a sister, Kate Coen.
Ms. Cruise reprized her “Twin Peaks” role in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” Mr. Lynch’s 1992 film, and a quarter-century later in an episode of Showtime’s reboot of the TV series. In a 2017 interview with the Los Angeles Times, she reflected on her long Twin Peaks ride.
“It was so much fun being a part of something that just did ba-boom!” she said. “You didn’t know it would do that. What a nice surprise, life takes you in.”