Angelo Badalamenti, Composer For 'Twin Peaks' And 'Blue Velvet,' Dies At 85

Badalamenti was best known for his decades-spanning collaborations with David Lynch, scoring six of his films in addition to the iconic "Twin Peaks" series.
Composer Angelo Badalamenti has died. He was 85.
Composer Angelo Badalamenti has died. He was 85.
Kevin Winter via Getty Images

Angelo Badalamenti, whose entrancing scores for David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” TV series and six of his films brought him widespread acclaim, has died. He was 85.

His niece Frances Badalamenti confirmed his death to The New York Times, and Badalamenti’s agent, Laura Engel, confirmed his death to The Washington Post. The renowned composer died Sunday at his home in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, reportedly of natural causes.

Prior to “Twin Peaks,” Lynch had established himself as an impressive filmmaker with “Eraserhead” and “The Elephant Man.” But his TV series — a surreal, disquieting detective story that premiered in 1990 and spanned two initial seasons, a 1992 film and a sudden third season in 2017 — changed television forever.

The two-hour “Twin Peaks” pilot became the highest-rated television movie of the year, garnering 36 million viewers, according to Vulture.

So-called “appointment viewing” turned mainstream as audiences tuned in to find out who killed Laura Palmer, the teenager whose death sparked the show’s mesmerizing whodunit about quirky townsfolk and an eccentric FBI agent. Badalamenti’s score earned him a Grammy Award.

Born on March 22, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York, Badalamenti was the second of four children and a second-generation Italian American. He was raised in Bensonhurst, but spent most of his summers with journeying vocalists who worked the Catskills for seasonal pay.

Badalamenti graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with a master’s degree in 1960. He worked as a seventh-grade teacher until he snagged a record deal when the Board of Education saw the impressive Christmas musical he composed for his students.

The ambitious musician went on to score nearly 50 films, closely collaborating with directors like Danny Boyle and Paul Schrader and musical icons like David Bowie, Nina Simone and Michael Jackson. It was his work with Lynch, however, that made him an international success.

The duo first collaborated in 1985, when Badalamenti was hired as Isabella Rossellini’s vocal coach for “Blue Velvet.” They reunited for “Twin Peaks,” the theme of which earned Badalamenti a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and his first gold record.

From left to right: David Lynch, Julee Cruise and Badalamenti created the "Twin Peaks" music together.
From left to right: David Lynch, Julee Cruise and Badalamenti created the "Twin Peaks" music together.
Michel Delsol via Getty Images

Julee Cruise, who had performed in the chorus of an off-Broadway musical of Badalamenti’s, contributed the vocals to his “Twin Peaks” work, with lyrics written by Lynch himself. The soundtrack was so successful it entered the top 25 on the Billboard 200 charts.

“[Badalamenti has] this musical soul, and melodies are always floating around inside,” Lynch told People in 1990. “I feel the mood of a scene in the music, and one thing helps the other, and they both just start climbing.”

While Lynch was far from Badalamenti’s only collaborator, the two became close friends. They even formed a band in 1990, when Lynch reportedly laughed so hard after first hearing Badalamenti sing that he gave himself a hernia.

From the torch-lighting theme for the 1992 Summer Olympics to the sweeping introductory montage for “Inside the Actors Studio,” Badalamenti’s career was as eclectic as can be. He won the Henry Mancini Award and a Lifetime Achievement trophy at the World Soundtrack Awards.

Badalamenti is survived by his wife, Lonny, his daughter, Danielle, and four grandchildren.

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