Anita Lane, Rocker Who Was More Than a Muse, Is Dead at 61

Anita Lane, who collaborated with the Australian rocker Nick Cave on some of his most striking songs and made distinctive records of her...


Anita Lane, who collaborated with the Australian rocker Nick Cave on some of his most striking songs and made distinctive records of her own, applying her sometimes girly, sometimes sultry vocal style to lyrics that could be haunting, gloomy, sexual or tongue-in-cheek, died last month in Melbourne, Australia. She was 61.

Her label, Mute Records, announced her death in a posting on its website on April 29 but did not say when she died or give the cause. She lived in Melbourne.

Ms. Lane met Mr. Cave in 1977, when both were teenagers. She was his girlfriend during the period when he was coming to prominence with the band the Birthday Party and continued to write with him after he formed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1984.

“She was the smartest and most talented of all of us, by far,” Mr. Cave wrote in an emotional tribute on his website.

She contributed lyrics to a number of Birthday Party and Bad Seeds songs, including the title track from the first Bad Seeds album, “From Her to Eternity” (1985), and she helped define Mr. Cave’s dark, intense style. Mr. Cave was particularly enamored of a song for which she wrote all the lyrics, “Stranger Than Kindness” (1986), so much so that he has continued to perform it and borrowed its title for an autobiographical book published last year that documented memorabilia from his career. It’s an abstract song (arranged by Blixa Bargeld) that seems to be about both passion and estrangement, and ends this way:

Your sleeping hands journey
They loiter
Stranger than kindness
You hold me so carelessly close
Tell me I’m dirty
I’m a stranger
I’m a stranger
I’m a stranger to kindness

Ms. Lane was sometimes described with a particular term, which Mr. Cave commented on in his tribute. “Despised the concept of the muse but was everybody’s,” he wrote.

Yet she sometimes made her way into the recording studio herself, releasing two albums, “Dirty Pearl” in 1993 and “Sex O’Clock” in 2001 (both produced largely by Mick Harvey, Mr. Cave’s Bad Seeds bandmate).

“Dirty Pearl” compiled studio recordings she had made over 12 years in Berlin (where she lived for many years), London, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. Shane Danielsen, reviewing it in The Sydney Morning Herald, called Ms. Lane “a highly distinctive vocalist, purring in a manner at once erotic and unsettling.”

The British newspaper The Express, reviewing “Sex O’Clock,” said of Ms. Lane, “She’s groovy like a chic sixties chanteuse and funky like a seventies disco queen but still sounds dead modern, and the songs are redolent of lust and boudoirs.”

Erik Jensen, reviewing the same record in the German publication Politiken, said, “As a counterbalance to the many half-naked Barbies of the time on MTV, Anita Lane’s mature seduction is a pleasure.”

Anita Lane was born on March 18, 1960, in East Melbourne to Rowland and Pearl (Petts) Lane.

According to Ian Johnston’s book “Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave” (1995), when she was 17 she talked her way into the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, lying about her age because she was too young. Mr. Cave too was studying art. A portrait she painted of him in 1977 is included in his “Stranger Than Kindness” book, along with her comment about him: that if he were hit by a bus, he would be compelled to write about it in his own blood before he died.

She was 17 and he was 19 when they met. Punk rock had blossomed.

“I guess everyone came to life out of punk rock, all that feeling that was going around at the time,” she said years later. “It was funny for us because we weren’t poor, working class or very upset. What were we? I don’t know.”

She didn’t stick with art school long after meeting Mr. Cave, whose band at the time was called the Boys Next Door but soon became the Birthday Party. When the band left Melbourne to try London in the early 1980s, Ms. Lane soon joined Mr. Cave there. She contributed lyrics to some of the songs on the band’s debut album, “Prayers on Fire,” released in 1981.

She also began turning up in Mr. Cave’s songs in other ways.

“In ‘Six-Inch Gold Blade’ Cave narrated a violent tale of extreme sexual jealousy, desire and hatred combined in the brutal murder of a girl not too dissimilar in appearance to Anita Lane,” Mr. Johnston wrote in his biography. “Although his obsession with Anita had manifested itself in a number of earlier songs, ‘Six-Inch Gold Blade’ marked her first obvious appearance as a narrative character.”

Such depictions didn’t bother Ms. Lane.

“To other people it may have been really shocking,” she said, “but I liked the idea of how shocking it was.”

The two would sometimes collaborate even after their romantic relationship ended in 1983. Ms. Lane also worked with other artists, especially Mr. Harvey. She contributed vocals to several tracks on his “Intoxicated Man,” a 1995 album reimagining songs by the French star Serge Gainsbourg. Four years earlier she and Barry Adamson released a single of “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” the Nancy Sinatra hit.

Her record company said Ms. Lane is survived by a son with Johannes Beck, Raphael; and two sons with Andrea Libonati, Luciano and Carlito.

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