If “Twin Peaks” is the sound of sawing wood, then Julee Cruise is the sound of a breaking heart.
Working alongside David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti for many years to help create the signature sound and overall tone of the original series that debuted in 1990, as well as the prequel film that followed in 1992, “Fire Walk with Me,” and the cinematic return to “Twin Peaks” on Showtime in 2017, Cruise’s voice is just as imperative of an ingredient as the owls and the sycamores themselves. When it was announced that she took her own life on June 9 after a long battle with depression and painful symptoms of lupus, fans of “Twin Peaks” and creators like Lynch who’ve known Cruise as the rare talent she was mourned her loss profoundly. If the town the show is set in were real and not just a mishmash of locations in and around Snoqualmie, Washington, the news of Cruise’s passing would have shut down the Packard Sawmill. Hell, Catherine Martell might have pulled the lever herself; quieting the churning of the gears, stilling the saws, until the only sound left was a distant chirp from a bird outside, and the melody of a song that now only exists as a recording, or a memory.
“I just found out that the great Julee Cruise passed away,” David Lynch said in a YouTube memorial. “Very sad news. Might be a good time to appreciate all the good music she made, and remember her as being a great musician, great singer, a great human being.”
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Lynch first met Cruise in the mid-80s and had her sing on a song called “Mysteries of Love” that he and longtime friend and composer Badalamenti wrote for the film “Blue Velvet.” The trio would go on to collaborate on many other projects over the years and while Lynch always held Cruise in high favor, their relationship was not without its hills and valleys. While working with Lynch on “Twin Peaks: The Return” in 2017, Cruise felt that she’d been mistreated, and expressed heated disappointment that her contribution to the third season of the show only amounted to a small performance at the closing of “Part 17,” in which she performed the “Twin Peaks” classic “The World Spins.”
“I’m done, and I could care Less about TP,” Cruise said in a post to Facebook. “My subconscious never lies……I have my answer now of what I will do with the rest of my life!”
In the resulting comments of her post, fans reached out to ask why Lynch had only given her such a short amount of screen time, and why it ran under the credits, to which Cruise replied “He did it to slap me in the face.” The singer went on to say she felt as though she’d been “treated like trash” during the taping of the episode she appeared in, closing with the comment “Now I can finally get off the grid, listen to music, dance with my dogs, make my home our home, and dreams like this now in my life are wonderful. Really. I don’t feel up to it. I don’t like how I’m treated.”
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As a life-long lover of music himself, Lynch knows that film and television land flat without a proper soundscape.
Regardless of what went down between Cruise and Lynch, it’s obvious he valued her creative output enough to use it as often as he did in the projects he is best known for. As a life-long lover of music himself, Lynch knows that film and television land flat without a proper soundscape.
When I interviewed Lynch for NY Post in 2103 prior to the release of his album “The Big Dream,” he spoke in detail about the importance of music in a visual medium like TV and film.
“It’s important to listen to many, many different types of music,” Lynch said. “You never know what’s gonna come out. A character can come out of music, a mood, a way that things look with the light, a whole scene can flow out.”
The story of “Twin Peaks” centers on Laura Palmer, a troubled high schooler played by Sheryl Lee. Getting to know Laura Palmer through the eyes of Lynch and “Twin Peaks” co-creator Mark Frost, we walk with her through her sexual awakening, the guarded handling of her relationship with her best friend Donna Hayward, played by Lara Flynn Boyle in the show and Moira Kelly in “Fire Walk with Me,” and the sexual abuse and murder at the hands of her father, Leland Palmer, played by the amazing Ray Wise. And all through highest of highs and the darkest disparity of her lows, there is music. Badalamenti may have given Laura her theme, but Cruise lit the fire inside of her with “Falling,” and then snuffed it out with “Questions in a World of Blue.”
“When this kind of fire starts, it is very hard to put out. The tender boughs of innocence burn first, and the wind rises, and then all goodness is in jeopardy,” the Log Lady, played by the late great Catherine E. Coulson, said to Laura in a pivotal scene in “Fire Walk with Me.” As she spoke these words, Cruise is heard singing in the background, pushing the emotions of the scene past melancholy and into sorrowful.
When I learned of the death of Cruise, the news was delivered late in the night. The first thing I wanted to do when I awoke the next morning was listen to her music. I brought up my favorite clip from “Twin Peaks,” which plays during a scene at The Roadhouse (and a pox on you if you call this place the Bang Bang Bar). James (James Marshall) and Donna are at a table together. Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) and The Log lady sit behind them. There’s danger in the air and sadness. And on stage, as she often was during moments like these, Julee Cruise sings:
Tell your heart, you make me cry
Tell your heart, don’t let me die
I want you
Rockin’ back inside my heart
Listening to this song the other day I felt myself grabbing on to each note as though holding on to one end of a rope that was burning from the other. We won’t get any more from Cruise like this, but we’ll always have what we have, and that’s such a pretty song.