Diane Luckey, the alt-pop singer-songwriter best known as the woman behind Q Lazzarus, died on July 19, according to an obituary posted by the Jackson Funeral Home of her Neptune, NJ hometown. A cause of death was not cited in the obituary, though according to a different obit published by the Asbury Park Press, her passing followed “a short illness.” She was 59.
Luckey’s career in the pop spotlight was a brief and mysterious one, as details about her were famously scarce, and she only ever had one official song released: the dark synth-pop classic “Goodbye Horses,” a song of pure nocturnal magic, and an enduring pop culture staple following its use in the Oscars-sweeping blockbuster Silence of the Lambs in 1991.
It was that movie’s director, Jonathan Demme, who discovered Luckey — a cab driver at the time — in the mid-’80s when she picked him up for a ride and played him her demo tape. Demme was entranced enough by Luckey’s enigmatic dance-pop as frontwoman of Q Lazzarus that he made her a fixture in his movies for most of the next decade. He included her “The Candle Goes Away” in 1986’s Something Wild, and then featured “Goodbye Horses” in a pair of his movies: 1988’s Married to the Mob and 1991’s Silence of the Lambs.
It was the latter usage that particularly stuck in audiences’ memories, thanks to its haunting usage as the soundtrack to a scene of gender dysphoric serial killer Buffalo Bill filming themselves dancing to the song, while revealing their naked body to the camera. The scene and character in general has come to be understandably viewed by many as transphobic, but the combination of song and imagery remains unshakeable, and helped the already-stunning “Goodbye Horses” become an alt-pop perennial — with over 50 million plays on Spotify alone between multiple versions, and covers by artists like MGMT, Crosses and the Airborne Toxic Event.
But despite its considerable legacy, the song never became a Billboard-charting hit, and after appearing in Demme’s successful 1993 drama Philadelphia (performing a rendition of Talking Heads’ ballad “Heaven”), she was rarely seen or heard from again publicly, and never returned to recording with Q Lazzarus. Over the years, many investigations, formal and informal, were launched into tracking down her whereabouts, but most proved fruitless — until someone claiming to be Luckey got in touch with writers Thomas Gorton and Kelsey Chapstick over Twitter following a 2017 Dazed article about her, saying she had long been serving as a bus driver in Long Island and had “no interest in singing anymore.”A follow-up investigation from Chapstick to verify the source of the messages revealed some further evidence supporting the veracity of those Twitter messages, but nothing entirely conclusive.
According to the Jackson Funeral Home’s obituary, Luckey “was a multi-talented instrumentalist, writing lyrics and singing, playing guitar and piano and producing as well,” who had also spent time as a commercial jingle writer and backing vocalist at Philadelphia’s famed Sigma Sound Studios. It also describes her as “a big-hearted, fun-loving and passionate woman who loved traveling, adventure, music, cooking and people,” and reports that at the time of her death, she was working on a documentary on her life and work (along with friend and filmmaker Eva Aridjis), and that the finished film is scheduled to be released in 2023.