Trevor Charles Rabin (//, born 13 January 1954) is a South African musician, singer-songwriter, producer, and film composer. Born into a musical family and raised in Johannesburg, Rabin took up the piano and guitar at an early age and became a session musician, playing and producing with a variety of artists. In 1972, he joined the rock band Rabbitt who enjoyed considerable success in South Africa, and released his first solo album, Beginnings. In 1978, Rabin moved to London to further his career, working as a solo artist and a producer for various artists including Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
Rabin performing with Yes featuring ARW in 2017
|Birth name||Trevor Charles Rabin|
|Born||13 January 1954|
Johannesburg, South Africa
After moving to Los Angeles in 1981, Rabin gained prominence as the guitarist in the progressive rock band Yes from 1983 to 1995. 90125 (1983), his first album with the group and developed mostly from Rabin's demos, remains their biggest selling album helped by the US number one single "Owner of a Lonely Heart". After Big Generator (1987) and Union (1991), Rabin produced Talk (1994) and left the group after its tour. During his time in Yes, Rabin acquired American citizenship.
Rabin became a prolific film composer and has since scored over 40 feature films, most notably his frequent collaborations with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. He has won numerous awards, including 11 BMI Awards. He took a short break from scoring to record his fourth solo album, Jacaranda (2012), and in 2016 to tour and record with Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman. In 2017, Rabin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes.
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, musician, conductor, and the lead violinist in the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. The two met during their service in the South African army entertainment division. His paternal great grandfather was a Lithuanian Jew who was a cantor and his grandfather, Gershon Rabinowitz, was a kosher butcher who arrived in South Africa in the late nineteenth century. His uncle Morrie Rabin was a piano teacher. Rabin's brother Derek is three years his elder. Rabin described his family as "extremely anti-apartheid". Rabin's mother converted to Judaism, and the family observed Jewish holidays and celebrations. Lawyer and judge Sydney Kentridge and journalist and activist Donald Woods are his cousins.
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." At twelve, he started to teach himself the guitar using piano exercise books and never had a formal lesson in the instrument. A year later he played in The Other before forming Conglomeration, and later joining Freedom's Children for a one-year stint until 1973. He wrote their song "State of Fear" and toured the country extensively with a same-titled tour. For several months Rabin studied arrangement, orchestration, and conducting from Walter Mony, a professor at the University of Johannesburg in preparation to be a conductor, but he decided to pursue a career in rock music.
At sixteen, Rabin was discovered by a local record producer and became a session musician, playing a variety of styles including jazz, fusion, country, classical, conga, and kwela. He cites Arnold Schoenberg, Tchaikovsky, Hank Marvin, 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, performing in a rock group, and did outside session work at Gallo Studios. 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." In 1972, Rabin bought his Fender Stratocaster.
1972–1978: Rabbitt and solo projectsEdit
In 1972, Rabin reunited with his bandmates in Conglomeration to form the rock band Rabbitt 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. The track appeared on their debut album, Boys Will Be Boys, released in 1975 on Jo'Burg Records. Rabin won an award for his orchestral arrangements on the album in 1975. The band won 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. Later that year Rabin received a SARIE Award for his production work on the album and Rabbitt received their second award for Best Contemporary Music Artist. Rabin also produced and arranged Margaret Singana's album Where is the Love (1976). His career as a session musician included his two albums released under the pseudonym Trevor Treblanche, organised by producer Rob Schroder and released on a budget record label. Rabin also produced various disco-oriented projects including The Tee Cee's, Slang, and Disco Rock Machine.
In 1977, Rabin recorded and released his first solo album, Beginnings, for RPM Records. It was recorded in approximately six and a half weeks 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". Rabin played all instruments except the drums, for which he used session player Kevin Kruger. Also in 1977 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 and restrictions on South Africans obtaining visas. The situation became a catalyst for Rabin to leave the country. He had scored his first feature film by this time, the 1978 blaxploitation film Death of a Snowman (later rereleased as Soul Patrol). Rabin recalled: "We stuck a sheet up on the wall and I wrote the score ... I still haven't watched it".
1978–1982: London and Los AngelesEdit
In January 1978, Rabin arrived in London to continue his solo career. He was encouraged to move by music entrepreneur Ivor Schlosberg, who offered Rabin to kick start the English branch of his production company, Blue Chip Music, and become its first producer. By July, Rabin had struck a recording deal with Chrysalis Records which, in September 1978, reissued his debut solo album under the name Trevor Rabin. The album was remixed at Wessex Sound Studios in London and released with some new tracks and in a different track order. Billboard magazine gave a positive review: "An impressive outing marked by a rock style that invites comparisons to Boston at times or a Tom Petty" with "explosive" keyboards and guitars. Later in 1978, Rabin produced, performed on, and arranged Noel McCalla's debut album, Night Time Emotion (1979).
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.
Wolf, Rabin's third solo album for Chrysalis, released in 1980, was 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 upon the encouragement from Geffen Records A&R man John Kalodner, and began to develop material for a fourth solo album for the label with drummer Frankie Banali and bassist Mark Andes. During this time, 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 which led to the label dropping him. 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. RCA Records executive Ron Fair was, according to Rabin, "the first one to really hear that I had something interesting", and talks began regarding a new group of Rabin, Bruce, and keyboardist Keith Emerson. The group fell through, yet Fair offered Rabin a solo deal which was declined after Rabin decided to work with bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White, formerly of the progressive rock band Yes after his demos were discovered by producer Mutt Lange and Phil Carson of Atlantic Records. Rabin also declined an offered to tour with Foreigner as their keyboardist.
1982–1995: Yes and Can't Look AwayEdit
In late 1982, Rabin, Squire and White formed Cinema which included original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye, and recorded 90125 with former Yes singer Trevor Horn as producer. Based mostly on Rabin's demos, the album displayed a more commercial and pop-oriented direction, much different than their progressive rock-themed albums in the 1970s. During the mixing stages in mid-1983, former Yes singer Jon Anderson returned to sing on the album which led to the group becoming a reformed line-up of Yes. Rabin was uncomfortable with the decision, feeling the new music did not represent what the band became popular for and wished for the album to be judged as its own.
Released in 1983, 90125 remains the band's highest selling album with 3 million copies sold in the US alone, helped by its lead single "Owner of a Lonely Heart", one of Rabin's songs, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. When it reached number one, Rabin sent a letter to Davis and wrote, "I guess you were wrong". Yes toured the album in 1984 and 1985, performing over 100 concerts worldwide which included two headline spots at the inaugural Rock in Rio festival. The tour was delayed to start after Rabin required surgery after a woman hit his midsection as she jumped into a swimming pool which ruptured his spleen. Rabin is featured on the concert film 9012Live, released in cinemas to coincide with the live LP 9012Live: The Solos. The latter features Rabin's acoustic guitar solo, "Solly's Beard".
Big Generator was a laborious album to make. It 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 featured the hits, but other album tracks, such as "Final Eyes" and "I'm Running," were dropped because as Rabin later said, they never quite happened live. Several tour 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. During the album's production Rabin was asked by Bob Dylan to play the guitar on two songs.
Later in 1988, Anderson left Yes to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH) and the band entered a period of inactivity. Rabin used the time to make his third solo album, Can't Look Away. Released in July 1989 by Elektra Records, the album peaked at No. 121 on the Billboard 200. Its lead single, "Something to Hold on To", peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Short Form Music Video. In 1989 and 1990, Rabin completed a solo tour of the US with drummer Lou Molino III, bassist Jim Simmons, and keyboardist Mark Mancina. Recordings from the tour were used on the live album Live in LA released in 2003, featuring songs from Wolf, 90125, and Big Generator. In addition to his solo work, Rabin worked on new music with Supertramp singer Roger Hodgson who was asked to replace Anderson as Yes's singer.
From 1990 to 1992, Rabin was a part of an eight-member formation of Yes. Anderson had asked him to submit a song that he would allow ABWH to record on their second album; Rabin said "What I read into that was they needed a single", and sent three demos. Despite requesting only one be used, Anderson wished to use all three which prompted discussions among the two group's management over the idea of Yes and ABWH working on a single album, Union. Rabin thought a merge "was useful and convenient to everyone" as it was a quick way to get the band back on the road touring, and completed "Lift Me Up", "Miracle of Life", and "Saving My Heart". The tour featured the eight members playing on stage; though it did little to improve relations between Howe and himself, Rabin began a good relationship with Rick Wakeman.
Rabin's final album with Yes was Talk, released in 1994. Carson had approached him to make an album with the 90125 line-up for his independent label, Victory Music. Knowing the importance of having a close collaboration with Anderson, the two wrote the album at a motel in San Clemente, California. The group chose Rabin to oversee its production, the recording for which occurred at Rabin's home studio and A&M Recording Studios using digital non-linear recording and editing with Digital Performer over traditional tape. "The Calling" and "Walls" were released as singles that charted at No. 3 and No. 24 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart, respectively. After touring the US, South America, and Japan through 1994, Rabin left the band in the following year to work in film.
1995–present: Film scoring, Jacaranda, and Yes feat. ARWEdit
In 1995, Rabin scored additional music to the film Fair Game. He then produced a complete score for the first time for The Glimmer Man (1996), directed by John Gray for Warner Bros. starring Steven Seagal. Rabin landed the job after Seagal 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 Seagal's offer to score the film. Rabin went on to form a longtime partnership with Jerry Bruckheimer after he worked on the soundtrack to Con Air with Mancina. Rabin has scored 13 films by Bruckheimer.
Rabin has twice scored for silent films as a way of practising his composition and orchestration skills, first on the piano and transcribing the music for orchestra. Rabin picked out "Building the Barn" by Maurice Jarre from his score to Witness (1985) as a piece of particular influence on him.
In 1997, Rabin performed "I Can't Look Away" at a Prince's Trust concert for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. Rabin called his meeting with Mandela and his family as "an immensely proud moment" of his life.
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 Turner Broadcasting System's NBA on TNT in 2002, MLB on TBS in 2007, 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.
Rabin's fifth solo album and his first in 23 years, Jacaranda, was released on 8 May 2012 on Varèse Sarabande. 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". 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. 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). Rabin has expressed a wish to record another rock-oriented album with vocals.
In 2016, Rabin took a break from film scoring to co-form a self-described new version of Yes named Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman. He has toured worldwide with the group since October 2016. A studio album of new material written and performed by the three is in development. Rabin pressed Anderson and Wakeman that they perform a concert in Israel, which they agreed. Rabin has expressed a wish to record another rock-oriented album with vocals. In October 2017, he said that he is roughly halfway through it.
In 1978, Rabin married Shelley May, whom he first met at school. They have resided in Hollywood, Los Angeles since 1984 and have one son, Ryan. Ryan has been the drummer for The Anthem, The Outline, and currently for Grouplove. In 1991, Rabin became a naturalised US citizen.
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.
Rabin names Bernard Herrmann as his favourite score composer. He has named Arnold Schoenberg as one of his favourite classical composers, and him and other classical composers – Beethoven, Sibelius, Elgar and Tchaikovsky – as influences. He names Jimi Hendrix, Steve Morse, Jeff Beck, and John McLaughlin as his favourite guitarists.
- 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)
- 90125 (1983)
- 9012Live: The Solos (1985, live album)
- Big Generator (1987)
- Union (1991)
- Talk (1994)
- Union Live (2014)
- Beginnings (1977) (reissued in 1978 as Trevor Rabin)
- Face to Face (1979)
- Wolf (1981)
- Can't Look Away (1989)
- Live in LA (live; 2003, recorded 1989)
- 90124 (compilation; 2003)
- Jacaranda (2012)
(with Paul Linford)
Guest appearances and collaborationsEdit
- Margaret Singana – Where Is the Love (1976) – Producer, arranger
- Manfred Mann's Earth Band – Chance (1980) – Producer
- Wild Horses – Wild Horses (1980) – Co-Producer
- Manfred Mann's Earth Band – Somewhere in Afrika (1982) – Guitar
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome (1984) – Guitar
- Jon Anderson – 3 Ships (1985) – Guitar
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Liverpool (1986) – Guitar
- Lisa Hartman – 'Til My Heart Stops (1987) – Guitar
- Marc Jordan – Talking Through Pictures (1987) – Guitar
- Bonham – The Disregard of Timekeeping (1989) – Bass, Background Vocals
- Seal – Seal (1991) – Guitar
- Paul Rodgers – Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters (1993) – Guitar
- Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995) – Guitar
- Various Artists – Crossfire: A Salute To Stevie Ray Vaughan (1996) – Guitar
- Tina Turner – Wildest Dreams (1996) – Guitar, Background Vocals
- Mark Mancina – Twister (1996) – Guitar (Track 7: The Hunt: Going Green)
- Various Artists – Merry Axemas Vol. 2 (1998) – Guitar, Keyboards
- Rick Wakeman – Return to the Centre of the Earth (1999) – Vocals, Guitar (song 12: "Never Is A Long, Long Time", with the London Symphony Orchestra)
- Roger Hodgson – Open The Door (2000) – Guitar, Keyboards, Background Vocals
- Don Harper's Oceana Orchestra – Dream and Variations (2009) – Guitar on "Where Do We Go From Here"
- Mr. Mister – Pull (2010) – Guitar, Bass *material recorded in 1989
- Jason Becker – Triumphant Hearts (2018) – "River of Longing" (feat. Trevor Rabin)
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- Welch 2008, p. 213.
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- Night Time Emotion (Media notes). Epic Records. 1979. EPC 83838. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
- Wakeman 1995, p. 140.
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- Kirkman 2013, p. 102
- Morse 1996, p. 90.
- Morse 1996, p. 91.
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- "Interview: Yes' Trevor Rabin talks name changes, new Yes film, current tour and more". Creative Loafing.
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