A cause of death was not immediately available for Lazzarus, whose real name was Diane Luckey. A friend of Luckey's who had been making a documentary about the musician confirmed her death to Rolling Stone on Thursday, while a short obituary published by the Asbury Park Press stated that Luckey died on July 19 "after a short illness."
"Over the past three years, Q became one of my closest friends and we were in touch almost daily, sometimes to talk about the film or her music but mostly just to talk about our lives and everyday matters," Luckey's friend, fillmaker Eva Aridjis, told RS an email.
"Q had one of those life forces that you simply can't imagine being extinguished or ceasing to exist, because it was so vital and radiant and exuberant," Aridjis reportedly continued. "Despite having had a very hard life, she was not jaded at all. On the contrary — she was full of enthusiasm, passion and humor. And she was also full of plans. At the time of her death, we were planning a 'comeback concert' with some of her original bandmates."
Luckey was born in Neptune, New Jersey in 1960 and sang in a youth choir after growing interested in music, according to Pitchfork. She moved to New York City at 18 to pursue a music career and started performing and recording as Q Lazzarus during the 1980s, per RS.
At one point, Luckey worked as a taxi cab driver — and once picked up filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who, Aridjis told RS, heard Luckey playing her own music in the cab and expressed interest in it.
Demme, who died in 2017 at 73, used Luckey's song "The Candles Goes Away" in the 1986 movie Something Wild as well as "Goodbye Horses" in both 1998's Married to the Mob and, most notably, 1991's Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs.
Lazzarus also appeared in Demme's 1993 film Philadelphia and performed an onscreen cover of the Talking Heads' "Heaven."
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Though Luckey's music appeared in prestigious films like The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, she never obtained a record deal, according to RS. Luckey subsequently disappeared from both public and her own personal life; Aridjis told the outlet, "[N]ot even her best friends or bandmates knew what had happened to her."
Aridjis said she was familiar with Luckey's music through playing "Goodbye Horses" as a DJ in New York City and met the musician by chance in August 2019 via a car service Luckey was operating.
"In August 2019, I got into a car service Q was driving and after chatting with her for a few minutes I figured out that it was her," Aridjis told RS. "We both felt that our meeting was fated, and shortly after that we started making a documentary about her life and music together which we've been working on for the past three years. We were just preparing to film the final scenes when she tragically and unexpectedly passed away last month at the age of 61."
Aridjis said she expects to release Goodbye Horses: The Many Lives of Q Lazzarus in 2023 and revealed Luckey gave her "a huge sack of cassette tapes" featuring music she recorded in the '80s and '90s.
"These songs have never been released before, but there are so many good ones in various genres and many of them will feature in the film and on the soundtrack," Aridjis told RS. "Q had spent the past 20-plus years driving cars and buses, and couldn't wait to return to making music."
Aridjis reportedly wrote, "Q had a spirit that was truly unique and irreplaceable, not just for her loved ones in their daily lives but to the creative community as a whole," in her email.
"As her collaborator, I am now more determined than ever to get her incredible story and amazing music out into the world," Aridjis added. "The film will no longer end with her comeback concert and her 'resurrection' — but I am glad that the world will still get to hear her story — in her own words and through her own songs — a precious task which she entrusted me with and which I will be forever grateful for."