Trevor Rabin

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Trevor Rabin
Trevor Rabin.jpg
Rabin performing with Yes in 1994
Background information
Birth name Trevor Charles Rabin
Born (1954-01-13) 13 January 1954 (age 61)
Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • orchestrator
  • producer
  • film composer
Years active 1972–present
Notable instruments
Westone Pantera Trevor Rabin Signature
Alvarez Trevor Rabin Signature
Washburn Parallaxe PXMTR20
Fender Stratocaster
Musical career
  • Progressive rock
  • pop
  • rock
  • classical
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • bass guitar
Associated acts

Trevor Charles Rabin (born 13 January 1954) is a South African-born musician, singer-songwriter, producer, and film score composer. Born in Johannesburg, Rabin was born into a family of musicians. After taking up the piano and guitar, Rabin became a session musician for a variety of artists before forming his first major rock band Rabbitt who enjoyed considerable success in South Africa. In 1978, Rabin moved to London, working as a solo artist and a producer for various artists. He moved to Los Angeles in 1981.

In 1983, Rabin joined the English progressive rock band Yes as guitarist and played on their albums 90125 (1983), Big Generator (1987), Union (1991), and Talk (1994). Developed mostly from Rabin's compositions, 90125 remains the band's biggest selling album. Its lead single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart", is the only one to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1995, Rabin left to become a film composer and has scored over 40 feature films and won numerous awards, including 11 BMI Awards. He continues to release albums, his most recent is Jacaranda (2012).

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Rabin was born on 13 January 1954 in Johannesburg, South Africa, into a family of musicians. His mother Joy was a painter, ballet dancer, actress, and classical pianist and his father Godfrey was a lawyer, conductor, and the lead violinist in the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. His paternal grandfather, Gershon Rabinowitz, was a kosher butcher who arrived in South Africa in the late nineteenth century and his uncle Morrie Rabin was a piano teacher. Rabin's brother Derek is three years his elder.[1][2] Rabin described his family as "extremely anti-apartheid".[3] Rabin's father was Jewish and his mother converted to Judaism and the family observed Jewish holidays and celebrations.[1][4][5]

In his youth, Rabin attended Parktown Boys' High School in Johannesburg and took up the piano at age six. He recalled, "Pushed by my parents, I had two lessons a week and practised an hour a day for twelve years, whether I liked it or not, as did my brother and sister."[6] At twelve, he started to teach himself the guitar[7] using piano exercise books and never had a formal lesson in the instrument.[3] A year later he played in The Other[6] before forming Conglomeration and Freedom's Children, an anti-apartheid group.[7] Rabin studied orchestration at the University of Johannesburg in preparation to be a conductor before he decided to pursue a career in rock music.[2] After he was discovered by a record producer at age sixteen, Rabin became a session musician, playing a variety of styles including jazz and jazz fusion.[7] He cites Arnold Schoenberg, Tchaikovsky, Hank Marvin,[7] Cliff Richard and the Shadows, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix as early influences. At nineteen, Rabin took a mandatory year of military conscription in the South African Army by serving in its entertainment division, arranging its big band and performing in a rock group. He said, "I used to go into what was called the garrison. I would just go there, find a little corner and literally sit for hours practising the guitar ... although I would always play the piano."[3] In 1972, Rabin bought his Fender Stratocaster for R160.[6]

1972–78: Rabbitt and solo albums[edit]

In 1972, Rabin reunited with his band mates in Conglomeration to form Rabbitt, a rock band with drummer Neil Cloud, bassist Ronnie Robot, and singer, keyboardist, and guitarist Duncan Faure. Their first single, released in 1972, was a cover of "Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull[8] which later appeared on their debut album, Boys Will Be Boys, released in 1975 on Jo'Burg Records.[9] Rabin won an award for his orchestral arrangements on the album in 1975.[7] The success of the band among teenage girls led to their own weekly television show,[10] and a SARIE Award for Best Contemporary Music Artist in 1976. Rabbitt's second album, A Croak and a Grunt in the Night, was released in 1977.[11] Later that year Rabin received a SARIE Award for his production work on the album and Rabitt received their second award for Best Contemporary Music Artist.[12] Rabin also produced and arranged Margaret Singana's album Where is the Love (1976).

Rabin also produced various disco-oriented projects including The Tee Cee's, Slang, and Disco Rock Machine.[13] By 1978, Rabbitt agreed to distribution deal with the US label Capricorn Records, but they were unable to tour abroad due to the international disapproval of South Africa's apartheid policies. Rabin left Rabbitt soon after. He went on to score his first feature film, Death of a Snowman (reissued as Snow Patrol), released in 1978. Rabin recalled, "we stuck a sheet up on the wall and I wrote the score ... I still haven't watched it".[14]

1978–82: London and Los Angeles[edit]

In 1978, left South Africa to continue his solo music career in London. He established a production company, Blue Chip Music, and struck a record deal with Chrysalis Records. Rabin's debut solo album, Trevor Rabin, was released worldwide in September 1978.[15] It was recorded in 1977 in approximately six and a half weeks at RPM Studios in Johannesburg. He recalled, "I don't think I ever left the studio at that time. I virtually lived and worked there around the clock".[16] It was first released in South Africa on RPM Records under the title Beginnings. Rabin plays all instruments except the drums, to which he used session player Kevin Kruger. The album was remixed at Wessex Sound Studios in London[16] and released with new songs and an alternate track order under. Billboard magazine gave a positive review, citing "an impressive outing marked by a rock style that invites comparisons to Boston at times or a Tom Petty" with "explosive" keyboards and guitars.[17]

In 1979, Rabin released his second solo album, Face to Face. He promoted the album with a UK tour as an opening act for guitarist Steve Hillage. Rolling Stone criticised the record for its hook-ridden ballads but still gave his first two albums good ratings for their technical qualities. In the same year, he co-produced Wild Horses, the debut album by Wild Horses. In 1980, Rabin played the guitar and co-produced Chance by Manfred Mann's Earth Band with Manfred Mann. A proposed rock supergroup with Rabin, singer and bassist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman never came to fruition. Wakeman claimed he refused to sign a recording contract "out of principle" after the label was prepared to sign them without listening to any of their music.[18]

Wolf, Rabin's third solo album for Chrysalis, was released in 1980 that he co-produced with Ray Davies. Recorded at Konk Studios in London, Rabin provided lead vocals, guitars, and keyboards while using various musicians to contribute, including drummer Simon Phillips, bassists Jack Bruce and Mo Foster, keyboardists Mann and John Bundrick, and Chris Thompson and Noel McCalla on additional vocals. Following its release, Rabin severed ties with Chrysalis as he felt the label did little to promote the album. During this time, Rabin played guitars on "Runner" and a rendition of "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley for Manfred Mann's Earth Band's album Somewhere in Afrika (1983).

In 1981, Rabin moved to Los Angeles and began to develop new material, some of it recorded with drummer Frankie Banali and bassist Mark Andes, for a new recording deal with Geffen Records. During this time, founder David Geffen put him in contact with musicians that went on to form the supergroup Asia. Rabin attended an early rehearsal, but felt his songs were not suitable for the group. Rabin was then dropped from the label as Geffen was not willing to release a solo album. Rabin felt "a little surprised but we all remained on good terms".[14] Rabin then sent a tape of his new songs to various labels, including Clive Davis at Arista Records who praised his vocals but deemed his songs unsuitable for the Top 40 format.[14] RCA Records executive Ron Fair was, according to Rabin, "the first one to really hear that I had something interesting".[14] Interested in what Rabin had produced, Fair offered Rabin a contract to produce a solo album, but Rabin turned it down after he decided to work with bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White of the progressive rock band Yes that disbanded in early 1981. Rabin also declined an offered to tour with Foreigner as their keyboardist.

1982–95: Yes and Can't Look Away[edit]

In 1982, Rabin's demos were discovered by producer Mutt Lange and Phil Carson of Atlantic Records, who invited him to meet Squire and White in London and play together. After a jam session, the three decided to form Cinema that later included original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye. The group developed Rabin's new material which displayed a more commercial and pop-oriented direction with pop and dance rock influences, much different than what Yes were known for in the 1970s. By June 1983, former Yes singer Jon Anderson was invited to sing on the album. Following a legal dispute with other bands named Cinema, the group decided to reform as a new line-up of Yes. Rabin was unsure of using the Yes name as he felt the new music did not represent what the band became popular for and wished for the album to be judged as its own.[19][20]

Upon its release in November 1983 on Atco Records, 90125 became the band's biggest selling album, reaching No. 5 in the US and selling three million copies there. Its lead single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart", reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for two weeks in January 1984 and the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[21] "Leave It" peaked at No. 24 on the Hot 100. In 1985, the track "Cinema" won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and 90125 received a nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. In February 1984, Yes toured to promote the album which lasted for one year, performing over 100 concerts across North and South America and Europe. The tour was delayed when Rabin required surgery after a woman hit his midsection as she jumped into a swimming pool which ruptured his spleen. Two shows in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada were filmed for their 1985 concert film 9012Live which was released in cinemas to coincide with the mini-LP 9012Live: The Solos. The latter features Rabin's acoustic guitar solo "Solly's Beard", a reference to his pet dog.

Big Generator was released in September 1987, with singles "Love Will Find a Way" and "Rhythm of Love." Both were modest chart hits compared to the singles from 90125, though the album was certified Platinum. The song "Shoot High, Aim Low" featured a dual lead vocal between Rabin and Anderson. The 1987–88 Big Generator tour of the ; several dates were cancelled after Rabin suffered from the flu. The tour ended on 14 May 1988 with a performance at Madison Square Garden as part of the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert.

Following Anderson's departure from Yes in late 1988 to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Rabin started to write with Supertramp singer Roger Hodgson and work on his fourth studio album, Can't Look Away, released in July 1989 on Elektra Records. Its lead single, "Something to Hold on To", peaked at No. 3 on Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Short Form Music Video. From 1989 to 1990, Rabin completed a solo tour of the US with drummer Lou Molino III, bassist Jim Simmons and keyboardist Mark Mancina. It spawned Rabin's only live album released to date, Live in LA, released in 2003 and featuring songs from Wolf, 90125, and Big Generator.

In 1990, during production on the second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album, Rabin was asked by Anderson to submit an unused song for the record. "What I read into that was they needed a single" recalled Rabin, who sent three demos, including "Lift Me Up",[22] and requested only one of them be used.[23] Anderson wished to use all three, which prompted discussions among the two group's management regarding the idea of Yes and ABWH working on a single album. Rabin thought a merge "was useful and convenient to everyone, because we wanted to go on the road, and it was a quick way".[24] The result was Union, released in April 1991, and its supporting tour which featured all eight members of Yes and Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe on stage and lasting from April 1991 to March 1992.

Talk is the final Yes album released with Rabin in the group. The album originated in 1992 when Carson approached Rabin to produce an album with the 90125 line-up and Wakeman for Victory Music, his then new, independent label funded by JVC. Knowing the importance of working closely with Anderson, the two wrote together at a motel in San Clemente, California where Anderson was staying. Recording and mixing took place at Rabin's home studio in Los Angeles known as The Jacaranda Room, and opted for early digital non-linear recording techniques than traditional recording tape. Talk includes "Walls" that Rabin co-wrote with Hodgson. Released in 1994, Talk was a mild commercial success and reached No. 20 in the UK and No. 33 in the US. It received generally poor reviews from critics. "The Calling" and "Walls" were released as singles that charted at No. 3 and No. 24 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart, respectively.[25] The Talk tour spanned the US, South America, and Japan from June to October 1994. For the first time in Yes history, the tour did not cover Europe. The tour included a performance of "Walls" on Late Show with David Letterman. According to Rabin, host David Letterman "was driving one day and 'The Calling' ... came on the radio. He stopped the car and apparently called his producer to get the album".[26] At its conclusion, Rabin left to concentrate on film scoring.

1995–present: Film scores[edit]

Rabin's first score for a Hollywood feature film was The Glimmer Man (1996), directed by John Gray for Warner Bros. starring Steven Segal. Rabin landed the job when Segal asked him for guitar lessons. Rabin said, "I went to his house and afterwards he said 'Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. If there's anything I can do for you...' and I said to him 'You know, I really want to get into film scoring'." Rabin then accepted Segal's offer to score the film.[3]

In 2003, Rabin released several of his demo tracks that were released on 90125 as 90124 as well as Live in LA, recorded at The Roxy in Los Angeles in 1989 during his Can't Look Away tour.

In 2004, Rabin provided lead guitar and vocals on "Cinema" and "Owner of a Lonely Heart" with various members of Yes in aid of the Prince's Trust at Wembley Arena, London. The show was a tribute to producer Trevor Horn.

His composition "Titans Spirit" from Remember the Titans (2000) has been used for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games and Barack Obama's speech and celebration upon winning the 2008 US Presidential election. Rabin composed the theme for TNT's sports shows NBA on TNT in 2009 and March Madness in 2011, and Disney's Mission: Space attraction at Epcot.

On 9 July 2010 Rabin performed with Yes for the first time in six years in Los Angeles for the show's encore, "Owner of a Lonely Heart". In 2011, potential music collaborations among Rabin, Anderson, and Wakeman were unsuccessful. Plans to recruit drummer Bill Bruford never materialised.[27]

Rabin's fifth solo album and his first in 23 years, Jacaranda, was released on 8 May 2012 on Varèse Sarabande.[28] The album came about in 2007 when Rabin began, without any direction from a record company, write "music that I enjoy ... that will be challenging for me to play".[3] He opted for an instrumental album as one with vocals did not interest him at the time. Recording the album took time as it was completed during breaks from working on film scores. In 2011, Rabin turned down various scoring projects to complete the album.[3] Rabin plays all of the instruments himself with the exception of drums, for which he used Vinnie Colaiuta, Lou Molino III, and his son Ryan. Tal Wilkenfeld plays bass on "Anerley Road" and Liz Constantine provides vocals on "Rescue", a track Rabin originally recorded for The Guardian (2006).[29]

In February 2014, Rabin described his new solo album as "more in line" with Can't Look Away, Talk, and 90125 via his Facebook page. A release date has not been set.

Personal life[edit]

In 1979, Rabin married Shelley May who he first met at school.[4] They reside in Los Angeles and have one son, Ryan, a drummer for The Anthem, The Outline, and currently for Grouplove.

In 1991, Rabin became a naturalised US citizen.


Rabin has received eleven Broadcast Music Incorporated film score awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Temecula Valley International Film Festival.

In June 2011, Rabin received an award at the 26th ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards in the Top Box Office Films category for The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010). On 28 June 2012 Rabin received a Henry Mancini Award at the 27th ASCAP Film & Television Music Awards. Rabin also performed "Owner of a Lonely Heart" with his son's band Grouplove.[30]


Rabin names Bernard Herrmann as his favourite score composer.[2] He has named Arnold Schoenberg as one of his favourite classical composers, and him and other classical composers – Rachmoninoff, Chopin, Elgar and Tchaikovsky – as influences. He names Joe Pass as his favourite guitarist.



With Rabbitt
  • Boys Will Be Boys (1975)
  • A Croak and A Grunt in the Night (1977)
  • Morning Light (1977, maxi single)
  • 1972–1978: Limited Souvenir Edition (1978, EP)
With Yes
Solo albums

Film scores[edit]

Year Title Director(s) Studio(s) Notes
1976 Death of a Snowman Christopher Rowley Martin Wragge Production N/A
1996 The Glimmer Man John Gray Warner Bros. N/A
1997 Con Air Simon West Touchstone Pictures with Mark Mancina
1998 Homegrown Stephen Gyllenhaal TriStar Pictures N/A
Armageddon Michael Bay Touchstone Pictures with Harry Gregson-Williams
Enemy of the State Tony Scott Touchstone Pictures with Harry Gregson-Williams
Jack Frost Troy Miller Warner Bros. N/A
1999 Deep Blue Sea Renny Harlin Warner Bros. N/A
2000 Whispers: An Elephant's Tale Dereck Joubert Walt Disney Pictures N/A
Gone in 60 Seconds Dominic Sena Touchstone Pictures N/A
Remember the Titans Boaz Yakin Walt Disney Pictures N/A
The 6th Day Roger Spottiswoode Columbia Pictures N/A
2001 American Outlaws Les Mayfield Warner Bros. N/A
Rock Star Stephen Herek Warner Bros. N/A
The One James Wong Columbia Pictures N/A
Texas Rangers Steve Miner Miramax Films
Dimension Films
2002 Bad Company Joel Schumacher Touchstone Pictures N/A
The Banger Sisters Bob Dolman Fox Searchlight Pictures N/A
2003 Kangaroo Jack David McNally Warner Bros. N/A
Bad Boys II Michael Bay Columbia Pictures with Paul Linford and Steve Jablonsky
2004 Torque Joseph Kahn Warner Bros. N/A
Exorcist: The Beginning Renny Harlin Warner Bros. N/A
National Treasure Jon Turteltaub Walt Disney Pictures N/A
2005 Coach Carter Thomas Carter Paramount Pictures N/A
Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist Paul Schrader Warner Bros.
The Great Raid John Dahl Miramax Films N/A
2006 Glory Road James Gartner Walt Disney Pictures N/A
Snakes on a Plane David R. Ellis New Line Cinema N/A
Gridiron Gang Phil Joanou Columbia Pictures N/A
Flyboys Tony Bill Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer N/A
The Guardian Andrew Davis Touchstone Pictures N/A
2007 Hot Rod Akiva Schaffer Paramount Pictures N/A
National Treasure: Book of Secrets Jon Turteltaub Walt Disney Pictures N/A
2008 Get Smart Peter Segal Warner Bros. N/A
2009 12 Rounds Renny Harlin 20th Century Fox N/A
Race to Witch Mountain Andy Fickman Walt Disney Pictures N/A
G-Force Hoyt Yeatman Walt Disney Pictures N/A
2010 The Sorcerer's Apprentice Jon Turteltaub Walt Disney Pictures N/A
2011 I Am Number Four D.J. Caruso Walt Disney Pictures N/A
5 Days of War Renny Harlin Anchor Bay Films N/A
2013 Grudge Match Peter Segal Warner Bros. N/A
2015 Max Boaz Yakin Warner Bros. N/A

Guest appearances and collaborations[edit]


  1. ^ a b Benarde 2003, p. 274.
  2. ^ a b c "Movie Geeks United! podcast: Composer TREVOR RABIN". 5 March 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Move Yourself: Trevor Rabin’s Evolving Career". ASCAP. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Benarde 2003, p. 276.
  5. ^ Berkwits, Jeff. "Owner of a Jewish Heart." San Diego Jewish Journal. September 2004. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Weiss, Arlene R. (2010). "Trevor Rabin Interview: Guitarist, Composer, Performer". Guitar International. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Welch 2008, p. 213.
  8. ^ "Rabbitt". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Boys Will Be Boys". All Music Guide. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Welch 2008, p. 214.
  11. ^ "Croak & a Grunt in the Night". All Music Guide. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  12. ^ "SA Charts 1969 – 1989". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Brian Currin (25 May 2003). "Time To Love – Disco Rock Machine". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d Holleran, Scott (3 June 2012). "Interview: Trevor Rabin". Scott Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  15. ^ "Chrysalis/Rabin Make Agreement". Billboard: 61. 8 July 1978. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  16. ^ a b McCullaugh, Jim (20 January 1979). "One-Man Band Rabin Also Singer Who Produces LPs". Billboard: 63. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "First Time Around: TREVOR RABIN". Billboard: 86. 30 September 1978. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  18. ^ Wakeman 1995, p. 140.
  19. ^ Wright, Jeb. "Trevor Rabin: Movies Don't Count". Classic Rock Revisited. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Ross, Craig Hunter (May 2012). "Trevor Rabin: Continuing Success With A New Solo Album". Jam Magazine. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  21. ^ "Yes > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  22. ^ Kirkman 2013, p. 102
  23. ^ Morse 1996, p. 90.
  24. ^ Morse 1996, p. 91.
  25. ^ "Roger Hodgson collaboration represents road not taken for Yes: 'One of those things that fizzled out'". Something Else! Reviews. 25 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Harry, Rich (19 June 1994). "Yes Uses The Latest Sound Techniques Affirmative Action". The Morning Call. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  27. ^ "Grumpy Old Rick's Ramblings September 2011". RWCC. Retrieved 10 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "Trevor Rabin: Jacaranda". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  29. ^ "Trevor Rabin-News". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  30. ^ "Trevor Rabin Honored at ASCAP Film & TV Awards by Bruckheimer, Yes' Anderson, Roasted by Turteltaub". Billboard. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  • Benarde, Scott R. (2003). Stars of David: Rock'n'roll's Jewish Stories. UPNE. ISBN 978-1-58465-303-5. 
  • Kirkman, John (2013). Time and a Word: The Yes Interviews. Rufus Publications. 
  • Morse, Tim (1996). Yesstories: "Yes" in Their Own Words. St Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-14453-1. 
  • Wakeman, Rick (1995). Say Yes! An Autobiography. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-62151-6. 
  • Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge – The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-132-7. 

External links[edit]