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 with a variety of artists prior to 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 BillboardHot 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).
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. Rabin described his family as "extremely anti-apartheid". Rabin's father was Jewish and his mother converted to Judaism and the family observed Jewish holidays and celebrations.
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." 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 Freedom's Children, an anti-apartheid group. Rabin studied orchestration at the University of Johannesburg in preparation to be a conductor before he decided to pursue a career in rock music. 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. 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 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." In 1972, Rabin bought his Fender Stratocaster for R160.
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 which later 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 success of the band among teenage girls led to their own weekly television show, 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. 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).
Rabin also produced various disco-oriented projects including The Tee Cee's, Slang, and Disco Rock Machine. 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 Soul 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".
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. 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". 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 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.
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.
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". 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". 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.
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.
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 BillboardHot 100 singles chart for two weeks in January 1984 and the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. "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.
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", and requested only one of them be used. 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". 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. 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". At its conclusion, Rabin left to concentrate on film scoring.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.