Over our extended weekend, we celebrated the birthday of Reverent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But one other eventful birthday I'd like to bring to your attention was on January 20, this past Sunday. That's the birthday of acclaimed director David Lynch. The visionary filmmaker turned 67 years old.
In celebration of that fact, I decided to take a look back at some of the greatest musical moments in Lynch's filmography. As an occasional musician himself, Lynch knows just how to work music into a scene to evoke a powerful visceral response on the part of the audience.
In a way, many of his greatest scenes are defined by the songs they use and the jarring effect which those songs create within their context.
10. Peter Ivers, "In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)" A snippet of an 18-minute ambient piece, "In Heaven" is sung by the Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near) in Eraserhead, who may be a vision of the main character Spencer (Jack Nance) or some kind of literal angel, depending on your interpretation.
9. Isabella Rossellini, "Blue Velvet/Blue Star" Blue Velvet was inspired by the hit Bobby Vinton song, so it was only appropriate for the film to feature a performance of it, here by Isabella Rossellini as female lead Dorothy Vallens.
8. Roy Orbison, "In Dreams" In Blue Velvet, "In Dreams" is apparently a favorite of the antagonist, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). It's lip-synched for Frank by the mysterious Ben (Dean Stockwell), until Frank decides he's had enough and shuts it off.
7. Powermad, "Slaughterhouse"/Nicolas Cage, "Love Me" This iconic scene from Wild at Heart starts off with a thrash-metal performance by Powermad, until Nicolas Cage's character Sailor steals the show and starts singing Elvis to his girl Lula (Laura Dern).
6. Chris Isaak, "Wicked Game" Another one from Wild at Heart. "Wicked Game" has popped up in quite a few films, but not many of them have ended with people bleeding out and dying on the side of the road from a horrible car accident. Such is the world of David Lynch, who also directed his own music video for the song.
5. Angelo Badalamenti, "Twin Peaks Theme" This incredibly familiar theme song perfectly captured the feel of the small, industrious town of Twin Peaks, Washington, from Lynch's cult-classic television endeavor.
4. David Bowie, "I'm Deranged" Though it's an obscure Bowie track even to big fans, Lynch employed it to incredible effect in the opening and closing sequences of his film Lost Highway. Bowie's dream-like vocals over the heavy industrial drums perfectly capture the manic nightmare of Bill Pullman's Fred Madison character.
3. Marilyn Manson, "I Put a Spell on You" With Trent Reznor involved in the soundtrack, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see Marilyn Manson's music pop up in the trailer for Lost Highway. The surprising part is how amazingly well the song choice fits the film's dark, sexual themes.
2. Rebekah del Rio, "Llorando" One of the most moving scenes in Lynch's filmography, Rebekah del Rio's Spanish a cappella rendition of Roy Orbison's "Crying" represents a huge shift in Mulholland Drive's plot; so much so, in fact, that the characters watching it become different characters afterward. It makes sense in context.
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1. Nina Simone, "Sinnerman" Closing out Lynch's most recent full-length film, Inland Empire, is the brilliant Nina Simone performing "Sinnerman" over the most ridiculous and insane ending credits scene ever made.