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Marianne Faithfull Remembers Angelo Badalamenti: ‘He Was Magic’

marianne faithfull angelo badalamenti

When Marianne Faithfull first saw David Lynch’s TV series, Twin Peaks, its music struck her at once. “It was just outstanding and so good and exactly the sort of music I wanted to do,” she tells Rolling Stone by phone from her London home. “I was so pleased. I thought, ‘Here’s a man I really want to work with.’” So she asked her manager to track down the series’ composer, Angelo Badalamenti.

Badalamenti died Monday of natural causes, and Faithfull is still struck by his talent when reflecting on her work with the composer. “I really adored him,” she says. “He was magic.” She considers the album she made with him, 1995’s moody and cinematic A Secret Life, “one of the best ones I’ve ever done.” She’s still in shock over the news of his death. “He was really charming, and so, so talented,” she says.

When Faithfull and Badalamenti finally convened in New York, a couple of years after he had worked on Julee Cruise’s The Voice of Love album and the music for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, his discipline in the studio impressed her. Even though they had three months to record the album, she remembers him being very strict about time. “He wouldn’t put up with any kind of tardiness or late-coming, no, which is pretty good for me,” she says with a laugh. But once they had their schedule down, everything happened in the moment; she worked on lyrics while he complemented her words with music.

Faithfull was initially thrown off by how Badalamenti would ask for “fragments” of lyrics to write to. “That must have been how David Lynch did it: gave him little fragments of ideas and Angelo developed that, but of course it was a bit different for me,” she says. “I didn’t think in fragments. I’m not David Lynch. I respect him a lot but I’m not him. And Angelo knew that.”

Ultimately, they composed an album with deep textures and dramatic, poetic passages. Quite literally, A Secret Life’s “Prologue” quotes Dante’s Divine Comedy and its “Epilogue” cites The Tempest. “He loved that idea of opening with Dante and ending with Shakespeare,” she says. “Angelo was such a lovely, straight kind of family man. But actually — and you can hear it in the music — he was very sophisticated.” Faithfull is also happy with how Badalamenti dressed her words up with synthesizer and orchestral strings on “The Stars Line Up,” a dusky tune about star-crossed lovers, as well as how he captured the transitional spirit of the autumnal celebration “Flaming September” and the sound of finding hope amid ennui in the single “Bored by Dreams.” 

Another favorite song of hers that she recorded with Badalamenti, the lilting lament “Who Will Take My Dreams Away,” didn’t come out on A Secret Life but in the 1999 French film, La Fille sur le Pont. “He came to me with this idea and asked me to write the words, and I did,” she said. “And then he wrote the music and then it turned out really beautifully. I’m very proud of that song. And that very much came from him.”

Looking back, Faithfull can’t explain why she and Badalamenti worked so well together. “It wasn’t obvious,” she says. “You wouldn’t just meet Angelo one time and say, ‘Wow, that’s a very hip guy.’ But he was a very hip guy actually. And there are people like that who are sort of underneath, secretly very hip and knowledgeable and clever. And emotional; I think he was very emotional.

“I really couldn’t say [how we worked] but I know that he certainly brought out something in me that was very, very precious,” she continues. “I’m going to miss him a lot.”

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