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Julee Cruise, otherworldly crooner on 'Twin Peaks,' dies at 65

In the '90s, Julee Cruise filled in for The B-52s member Cindy Wilson on tour. The singer is best known for her work with David Lynch on <em>Twin Peaks</em> and <em>Blue Velvet</em>.
Ted Town
Toronto Star via Getty Images
In the '90s, Julee Cruise filled in for The B-52s member Cindy Wilson on tour. The singer is best known for her work with David Lynch on Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet.

Julee Cruise, the singer best known for her collaborations with director David Lynch and The B-52s, died Thursday. Her husband, author Edward Grinnan, confirmed to NPR that Cruise died by suicide, and had struggled with "lupus, depression and alcohol and drug addiction" in the past. She was 65.

"She left this realm on her own terms," Grinnan wrote of Cruise in a Facebook post Thursday evening. "No regrets. She is at peace. I played her [the B-52s song] Roam during her transition. Now she will roam forever. Rest In Peace, my love, and love to you all."

Born Dec. 1, 1956 in Creston, Iowa, Cruise was known for her unusual vocal presence, so intensely calm and collected that it could be unsettling — which found a receptive audience in Lynch and score composer Angelo Badalamenti. For the 1986 film Blue Velvet, the two were looking to mimic the effect of This Mortal Coil's version of "Song to the Siren" by Tim Buckley, whose rights proved too costly to clear. The result of their collaboration was the original track "Mysteries of Love," in which Cruise's dreamlike vocals are set to a slow-moving fog of romantic synths and strings.

Inspired, the trio worked together again on Floating into the Night, Cruise's solo debut. Released in 1989, the album includes songs from Blue Velvet and others that would be featured in Lynch's concert film Industrial Symphony No. 1 and, most famously, the early '90s touchstone Twin Peaks.

An instrumental version of "Falling" was used as the theme song for the ABC television series, and onscreen, Cruise became a regular feature at The Roadhouse, a home for the show's bikers and crooners. She would return for the series' later incarnations, the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and the 2017 limited series Twin Peaks: The Return.

"In the ruckus of beers flying through the air at The Roadhouse, we have Julee singing a beautiful, slow-tempo song, and it's so outrageous," Badalamenti shared with the academic journal Series in 2016. "You would never have that kind of song in a place like that. The songs with Julee serve a two-fold purpose: They contrast the visuals and they set the tone for the show."

Cruise worked again with Lynch and Badalamenti for her 1993 album The Voice of Love, but after that she wouldn't release music again until The Art of Being a Girl (2002) and My Secret Life (2011). Those post-millennium albums, she said, were something of a reaction to time spent in what she called a "boy's club."

"It's not really about David or Angelo," Cruise told Pitchfork in 2018. "It's about how we're perceived as women and also how we love women. It's about how I watched my predecessors fight: Madonna, Kim Gordon, Kate Pierson — who is a god and a force to be reckoned with. We're not followers, we're front-runners. I came out of the womb with my fists."

In addition to singing, Cruise was also a Broadway actress, a pilot and a dog trainer. In the '90s, she filled in as a touring member of The B-52s while Cindy Wilson — another tough singer drawn to blurring the lines between kitsch and fine art — focused on raising a family. It was "the happiest time of her performing life," Grinnan writes in his post. "She will be forever grateful to them. When she first stepped up to the mic with Fred [Schneider] and Kate she said it was like joining the Beatles. She will love them always and never forget their travels together around the world."

At the end of that Pitchfork interview, Cruise mused about her late father and her family's cemetery plot in Minneapolis. "We have our own great graveyard there," she said, "but I'm not gonna get buried. I'm going to have my ashes mixed in with my dogs. They're gonna spread my ashes across Arizona, and Arizona is going to turn blue."

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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