“He wrote music from the heart, and he had a big, beautiful heart” – James Cameron.
Tragic news has hit the world of film and music as composer James Horner, a two-time Oscar winner, died in a plane crash on Monday, June 22.
Best known for composing the music to two of Cameron’s blockbusters, Titanic and Avatar, Horner leaves a timeless legacy behind, as well as a wife and two children.
James Roy Horner was born in Los Angeles during the ‘golden age of film,’ to Joan Ruth and Harry Horner, a movie set designer and Art Director who also won two Oscars in his career.
Horner first started playing the piano at just aged 5. He then went on to study music at the Royal College of Music in London, before moving back to California. Here he received his Bachelor’s Degree from USC, his master’s degree from UCLA, and later on, his PhD in Music Composition & Theory, also from UCLA.
After he finished his studies, his first break came for the film Star Trek: Wrath of Khan in 1982, alongside fellow established composer, Jerry Goldsmith, composer of the Alien soundtrack.
After the success of Star Trek, Horner’s portfolio went from strength to strength, composing for films such as Braveheart (1995), Apollo 13 (1995) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), working with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and George Lucas, as well as the aforementioned Cameron.
But after his infamous soundtrack to Titanic in 1997, including Celine Dion’s smash hit, My Heart Will Go On, which has sold over 15 million copies worldwide as a single, Horner’s reputation reached new heights. He received two Oscars that same year for ‘Best Original Song’ and ‘Best Score, Original Dramatic Score’. The soundtrack to Titanic is still, to this day, the highest selling soundtrack to a movie, ever, after it went to number one in 24 different countries and sold over 30 million copies. It is the highest selling album that is primarily orchestral.
He was nominated for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music by BAFTA three times in all, losing out on each occasion. Once in for Braveheart, which went to Luis Enriquez Bacalov for The Postman (Il Postman); for Titanic, beaten by Nellee Hooper for Romeo & Juliet; and finally in for Avatar, when Michael Giacchino took the prize for Disney’s Up.
Along with his involvement in film, Horner worked with established Orchestra’s composing a double concerto, called Pas De Deux, which premiered in November last year, which was commissioned to celebrate the 175th anniversary of The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. And Collage, a concerto for four horns which premiered in March this year, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
But on June 22, Horner was the only passenger in a light-aircraft that crashed into the Los Padres National Park near Ventucopa, California, north of Santa Barbara. The next day, representatives of Horner released a statement which confirmed his death. After that, tributes and reactions came flooding in:
“Rene and I are deeply saddened by the death of James Horner. We will miss him,” said Celine Dion on Twitter.
“To work with James Horner was one of the biggest moments of my life. He was such a kind soul, I’m so saddened,” said Leona Lewis, who worked with him on the soundtrack to Avatar.
And Will & Grace star, Debra Messing said: “We lost a MASTER today. James Horner, your music will live forever.”
And that it will. James Holder was a master of his craft and his music will be heard for years to come. May he rest in peace.
James Horner: August 14, 1953- June 22,2015.