Angelo Badalamenti, David Lynch’s composer on Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and more, dies aged 85 | Music

Musician who has worked with David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Nina Simone as well as on numerous albums and projects with Lynch

Composer Angelo Badalamenti performs at the David Lynch Foundation Change Begins Within show in New York in 2009
Angelo Badalamenti performs at the David Lynch Foundation’s Change Begins Within show in New York in 2009. He has died aged 85. Photograph: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

At the age of 85, renowned composer Angelo Badalamenti passed away. His eerie scores can be heard in David Lynch films including Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive.

According to his niece, Badalamenti passed away on Sunday at his New Jersey home from natural causes while he was surrounded by family.

Together, Lynch and Badalamenti would work on Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Lost Highway, The Straight Story, and Mulholland Drive. In Mulholland Drive, Badalamenti also played the coffee-loving gangster Luigi Castigliane, and in Blue Velvet, he played piano with Isabella Rossellini.

Over the course of his varied career, the classically trained musician collaborated with artists such as Nina Simone, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey, Marianne Faithfull, Liza Minnelli, Pet Shop Boys, and LL Cool J. He also wrote themes for Inside the Actors Studio and the torch theme for the 1992 Olympic Games.

He was hired to serve as a vocal coach for Rossellini on the 1986 film Blue Velvet, his first engagement with Lynch. Lynch requested him to come up with a song for the soundtrack, telling him to “let it drift like the tides of the ocean, make it gather space and time, eternal and unending,” which resulted in Julee Cruise’s song Mysteries of Love. Lynch eventually gave him the job of creating the soundtrack for the movie, instructing Badalamenti to “be like Shostakovich, be very Russian, but make it the most beautiful thing but make it dark and a little bit scary.”

David Lynch, Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti, pictured in 1989.
David Lynch, Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti, pictured in 1989. Photograph: Michel Delsol/51B ED/Getty Images

Without having seen any of the film, Badalamenti composed the majority of the music for Twin Peaks. Badalamenti recalled working with Lynch to write Laura Palmer’s Theme in 2018: “David came to my little office across from Carnegie Hall and said, ‘I have this idea for a show, ‘Northwest Passage’… he sat next to me at the keyboard and said, ‘I haven’t shot anything, but it’s like you are in a dark woods with an owl in the background and a cloud over the moon and sy The sounds he inspired were played.

The notes recently appeared. Both David and I were in awe. I see Twin Peaks,’ he said with tears in his eyes and hair on his arms standing up. I understood. I remarked, “I’ll work on it when I get home.” Working on it? Do not alter a note. Naturally, I never did.

For his work on Twin Peaks, Badalamenti received a Grammy and three Emmy nominations, and the soundtrack was certified gold in 25 different territories.

He occasionally went to Lynch’s sets to provide live music while it was being filmed so the actors “could experience the ambience.” The director was greatly inspired by Angelo’s ability to read a scene’s atmosphere, as he stated in a 2005 interview with the New York Times: “I sit with Angelo and talk to him about a scene and he begins to play those words on the piano… when we started working together, we had an instant kind of a rapport – me not knowing anything about music but real interested in mood and sound effects. Working with Angelo made me realize how closely related sound effects and music are to one another.

Badalamenti, who was born in Brooklyn in 1937, began playing the piano and French horn as a young adult before enrolling on a full scholarship in music school. In 1960, he received his degree from the Manhattan School of Music. He would support artists in resorts in the Catskill Mountains on his college breaks. In 2019, he stated, “I had to play a lot of the standards, so I studied quite a wide spectrum of music.” I had to pick them up pretty quickly, and being able to play such a wide variety of musical styles later on in my career was incredibly helpful.

He eventually got a job at a music publisher, where he wrote songs under the pseudonym Andy Badale for singers like Shirley Bassey and Nina Simone. He composed his debut film score for Gordon’s War in 1973. Blue Velvet, from 1986, was his third movie score.

Angelo Badalamenti (at piano) and Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet.
Angelo Badalamenti (at piano) and Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

The albums Floating into the Night from 1989 and The Voice of Love from 1993 were both released by Badalamenti, Lynch, and Cruise. In the early 1990s, he and Lynch also recorded the jazz album Thought Gang, but it took another two decades for it to be made available.

Later, he would collaborate with Paul Schrader on the films The Comfort of Strangers, Forever Mine, Auto Focus, and Dominion; Jean-Pierre Jeunet on The City of Lost Children and A Very Long Engagement; Jane Campion on Holy Smoke; Danny Boyle on The Beach; and Eli Roth on Cabin Fever.

A Late Quartet, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Secretary, the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors all used his music.

Badalamenti was given a lifetime achievement award at the 2008 World Soundtrack Awards, and Lynch gave him the renowned Henry Mancini award in 2011.

Danielle, his daughter, and his wife Lonny are left behind.

Also Read: ‘Goodbye campers!’: Tributes to ‘one of a kind’ Ruth Madoc as Hi-de-Hi! Star dies

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