The woman who performed the cult hit has completely disappeared – those connected to her and a Q Lazzarus bandmate try to shed some light
The year is 1991. Creeped out cinema audiences have just been introduced to Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter, the serial killers at the forefront of Jonathan Demme’s screen adaptation of Thomas Harris’ blockbuster horror novel Silence Of The Lambs.
In one of the film’s most iconic scenes Buffalo Bill is applying make-up, donning women’s clothes, tweaking his nipple ring and asking the mirror, “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me. I’d fuck me so hard”, in his robotic, gravelly voice, as the camera closes in on his peach lipstick. It’s an onscreen moment notable for many reasons – the unnerving delight Bill is taking in the imminent murder, the passion for his preparation and the claustrophobic camerawork. But what is that song playing in the background?
Euphoric and despondent, futuristic and ancient, Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” is the biggest song that never was. Released in 1988, it was described by its writer William Garvey, who died in 2009, as “about transcendence over those who see the world as only earthly and finite. The horses represent the five senses from Hindu philosophy and the ability to lift one’s perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.”
Despite having no impact on the charts in the late 80s, its trace has been left across pop culture. Kevin Smith paid homage to the track (and Silence Of The Lambs) in Clerks II, it makes an appearance on cult video game GTA IV and has been covered by artists including Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, now-defunct indie group Wild Beasts and Canadian synth-pop band Psyche, whose edit of the track, released on underground dance label Optimo in 2012, briefly gave the song another life in UK nightclubs. More recently, Gucci used it to soundtrack its SS16 campaign film.
But what happened to Q, the song’s undisputed star with an androgynous voice, the former choir singer who sang mournfully and powerfully over the pounding snare and sombre synths? She has all but disappeared from the public eye with little to no explanation, leaving behind a cult hit that has left an indelible mark on pop culture, and numerous YouTube comment sections and Reddit threads speculating over her whereabouts.
As legend would have it, the then-unsigned Q drove a New York cab in the 80s, making ends meet and moonlighting while she made music. On a snowy night her taxi was hailed by legendary director Jonathan Demme, who died in 2017. Q asked Demme if he was in the music business, to which the director replied ‘Not really’. Undeterred, Q slipped a tape into the cassette deck and played “Goodbye Horses” as they drove through a blizzard. It blew Demme away. “Oh my God, what is this and who are you?” he exclaimed in the back of the cab. They’d go on to work together on a few occasions. “Goodbye Horses” also appears in Demme film Married to the Mob, another Q Lazzarus track “Candle Goes Away” features in his movie “Something Wild”, and he enlisted Q to cover Talking Heads’ track “Heaven” in Philadelphia, in which she makes on onscreen appearance. But it was the song’s usage in Silence Of The Lambs that really catapulted it into cultural consciousness.
William Garvey, from Cleveland, Ohio was the band’s chief songwriter, who according to some friends and record label owners, had fallen on hard times in the latter part of his career, and had a tumultuous relationship with Q. He died in 2009. “Honestly, he never had a good thing to say about her (Q) and saw her as an instrument,” says Arabella Proffer, a close friend of Garvey’s. “He wrote and performed the music and thought she had taken advantage way past what was necessary. He hinted she was a drug addict, and aside from that he never much talked about her.”
Garvey was by all accounts a volatile character right up until his death, famous even in his intensive care unit with nurses who were amused by his bitchy, boisterous phonecalls to friends and fashion designers. Arabella even remembers that when they were in the hospice he would host “Karl Lagerfeld dance parties” for the two of them, aware he was close to death. Born in Cleveland, he lived in LA, London and NYC – where Q Lazzarus formed – but moved back to Cleveland to be close to his mother. “Goodbye Horses” was played at his funeral. According to Arabella, he died a week before he was scheduled to sign all royalties to the song over to his best friend, collaborator and one-time housemate Veronica Red. “His estranged sister now gets any money from that song, and we’ve seen releases happen that he in no way would have wanted,” says Arabella.
“His estranged sister now gets any money from that song, and we’ve seen releases happen that he in no way would have wanted” – Arabella Proffer
However, Veronica disputes this and says that Garvey and his sister were no longer estranged at the point of his death. “Before William passed they were talking again,” she says. “It is true, he never had a will, but it was what he wanted. I believe his family takes care of his estate now. I lost touch with them a few years ago.”
During his life, Garvey was fastidious in claiming royalties, suing MGM when Family Guy used the song without permission – an episode where Chris Griffin parodies the famous Buffalo Bill scene. But Q wasn’t, and according to people that knew her, she’s owed a lot of money. Mon Amie Records is the label that released the song and its founder Mona has also been looking for Q “for many years, but to no avail”. Garvey suspected that she was dead and had last tried to find her in the mid-90s without luck, but was contacted by someone claiming to represent her in 2007.
Q Lazzarus and the Resurrection were a band consisting of producer and songwriter William Garvey, Gloriana Galicia, Janice Bernstein, Mark Barrett and of course lead vocalist Q, whose real name is unknown, having been listed as Diane Lucky, Quiana Lazzarus and Quiana Diana Lazzarus, with an estimated age today of 52 or 53.
Gloriana Galicia was a backing singer in Q Lazzarus, someone who remembers Q with fondness and love, but hasn’t seen her since the late 80s or early 90s. Galicia met Q in 1985 at a West Village club party, and they quickly became close. “She became a big sister to me,” she says. “I was studying voice and music, I complained about having a bad haircut. Q looked at me and said ‘Honey, you are very glamourous, I’m taking you to Liz for a weave’. Q took me to an older lady Liz, in Harlem, for a hair weave. Liz was a woman in her 70s that owned a beauty salon in Harlem that got robbed. Liz told me she packed due to all the junkies back then and blew the robber away to save her own life. Q had an amazing heart, carried herself as a queen.”
“Q had an amazing heart, carried herself as a queen” - Gloriana Galicia
Galicia says that Q claimed to be 20 at the time, but suspects that she was older, and says that she worked as an au pair and housekeeper for an English businessman named “Swan”, who she lived with in Chelsea, the house where the band’s singers would record their vocal harmonies on cassette. Despite working different day jobs, Q’s dream was always success and fame, but found record companies unwilling to take a chance on her. “Q encountered blocks with cheesy pop-infested mid 1980s record companies,” says Galicia. “Q wore dreads then and they kept telling her ‘we cannot market you’. She replied, ‘I market myself, I’m a big boned African-American woman who wears dreads, sings American rock and roll – I market myself.’”
Galicia fears that Q is dead and alleges that she was involved in a toxic, abusive relationship with a controlling man. “We feared he isolated or perhaps abused her,” says Galicia. “Cutting someone’s friends off is abusive.” Both Galicia and Veronica Red think that Q moved to the UK at some point. “She was at one point living in the UK doing American rock’n’roll, Aerosmith-style stuff,” says Galicia. “Q went in the late 80s to the UK put a band together. Last time I saw her she gave me a demo and it was great.”
“Goodbye Horses” is a song that’s touched many people, and reached many corners of culture throughout the decades since its release. Beyond the fact that the song – simple but strident and euphoric – is brilliantly composed, Q’s contribution was always the allure, her androgynous, soaring voice the captivating component of a cult hit. It’s a mystery what became of her. Somewhere along the way she disappeared, into the night.