Diane Luckey, the mysterious, New Jersey-born singer/songwriter behind what has been called “the biggest song that never was,” died of undisclosed causes on July 19, according to an obituary published July 30. She was 59 years old.
Luckey’s obituary was shared by the Jackson Funeral Home, located in Luckey’s birthplace of Neptune, New Jersey, via the Asbury Park Press. The brief post notes that Luckey died “after a short illness,” and that her memorial service was held on Aug. 2. A longer, more comprehensive obit shared via Tribute Archive reveals that, at the time of her death, Luckey “was finishing work on a feature documentary about her life and music with filmmaker and friend, Eva Aridjis,” which will be released next year alongside “an album of songs spanning her entire musical career.”
Though it starts like many others, the story of Q Lazzarus more closely resembles a myth. Born Dec. 12, 1962, Luckey developed a passion for music from a young age and moved from Neptune to New York City at 18, where she first started writing, recording and performing as Q Lazzarus, and forming a band, Q Lazzarus and The Resurrection, which featured songwriter and producer William Garvey, backing vocalist Gloriana Galicia, Janice Bernstein and Mark Barrett.
In the ‘80s, while moonlighting as a cab driver to make ends meet, Luckey picked up a fateful passenger one snowy night: the late, great director Jonathan Demme, for whom the then-unsigned artist played a tape of her performing the Garvey-penned “Goodbye Horses.” Demme was amazed, asking, “Oh my God, what is this and who are you?”
This chance encounter enabled Luckey’s music to make an everlasting mark on the zeitgeist. Demme featured her song “The Candle Goes Away” in 1986’s Something Wild, and “Goodbye Horses” in 1988’s Married to the Mob. But by far the biggest stage Q Lazzarus ever stepped onto was Demme’s immortal Best Picture-winner The Silence of the Lambs, in which “Goodbye Horses” elevates an unnerving scene of serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) dancing into something truly unforgettable.
Luckey would not only soundtrack, but also appear in Demme’s 1993 follow-up Philadelphia, sharing the screen with stars Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks while covering Talking Heads’ “Heaven.”
But after The Resurrection reportedly dissolved in 1996, Luckey disappeared from public life. Her whereabouts in the years since had been a matter of much speculation, and it was rumored that her royalties for “Goodbye Horses” went unclaimed. Word of her surfaced online here and there in the late 2010s, and she once purportedly revealed she had retired from music and taken a job driving a bus in Staten Island.
“Q had an amazing heart, carried herself as a queen,” Galicia once recalled of her former bandmate.
Watch Luckey perform her iconic track in its official video below, and read her complete obituary here.