American composer Angelo Badalamenti, who wrote scores for film and television works such as Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive, died of natural causes at his New Jersey home on Sunday, December 11. He was 85. The news was announced by his family on Instagram on December 12 in a caption that reads, “My great uncle Angelo Badalamenti has crossed the barrier onto another plane of existence,” and calls the late composer “the most interesting man in the world to me. A true musical and artistic inspiration for me and countless others.”
Badalamenti composed for numerous recording artists, films, and series in his over 50-year career, although he is best known for his multi-decade collaboration with filmmaker David Lynch, writing the music for six of his films, as well as TV series Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return. His first collaboration with Lynch was the original song “Mysteries of Love” for Blue Velvet, recorded by vocalist Julee Cruise, who died earlier this year. Lynch wrote the lyrics for the song, as he would go on to do for later works composed by Badalamenti and recorded by Cruise, which would be featured on Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and Cruise’s album Floating into the Night. Equal parts ethereal, ominous, and jazzy, Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks is characterized by its moody, evocative use of synthesizers and his ability to write some of the most indelible character themes in film and television history, including “Audrey’s Dance” and “Laura Palmer’s Theme.” He won the 1990 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the theme song to Twin Peaks.
After the series and its follow-up film, Badalamenti composed the scores to Lynch films Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive, the latter of which was recently named the eighth greatest film of all time by the 2022 Sight and Sound poll. Beyond his collaborations with Lynch, Badalamenti composed the scores to Nightmare on Elm Street 3, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Secretary, as well as the music for Inside the Actors Studio. He also contributed the score to Lynch’s web series Rabbits, which is featured in parts of his most recent feature film, Inland Empire. In addition to soundtrack work, Badalamenti worked under a pseudonym with a number of legendary recording artists beginning in the 1960s, including Nina Simone, Della Reese, and Shirley Bassey.
Badalamenti often pursued more experimental works with Lynch. In 1989, he composed the music for Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted, a concert performance piece presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music featuring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. In 1991, he and Lynch formed Thought Gang, releasing songs under the moniker on various soundtracks before finally debuting a full Thought Gang album in 2018. One of Badalamenti’s final works was the soundtrack for the acclaimed third season of Twin Peaks in 2017.