Composer James Horner Dead At 61


For frequent readers of Bam Smack Pow, you know that I’m not just a superhero and comic book nut, but also a huge film fanatic.  That’s why it’s with great sadness that I bring you the news of the death of one of the greatest film composers of our time — James Horner.  On Monday, June 22, 2015, the famed composer was first reported to be missing after his plane crashed in Ventucopa, a community north of Santa Barbara.  The unidentified pilot — and sole person on board — of the plane was found dead.  Later, it was confirmed that the pilot was actually James Horner.

I put James Horner up there with the likes of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Howard Shore, Alan Silvestri, and James Newton Howard.  Truly a genius in film music.  To the comic book community, his scoring of The Rocketeer (1991) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) gave those films a whole new dimension — heightening the drama and excitement of those films to new levels.

James Horner was born in Los Angeles on August 14, 1953.  He was the oldest son of Harry Horner, a set designer and director, and Joan Horner.  Horner’s younger brother, Christopher, is a writer and director.

From a young age, Horner exhibited talent with music and picked up the piano at age five.  He spent most of his early years at the Royal College of Music in London.  Attending the University of Southern California, Horner received a bachelors degree in music.  After earning his master’s degree, Horner started on his doctoral work at the University of California, Los Angeles studying under Paul Chihara.  After completing several scoring projects for the American Film Institute, and teaching a class in music theory at UCLA, Horner focused his career on film scoring.

James Horner has worked on some of the most iconic films in the industry.  His first major film was The Lady in Red (1979).  Next, Horner scored Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and later Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).  He would collaborate with visionary director James Cameron for the first time when the two worked on Aliens (1986), garnering Horner his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score in 1987.

Throughout the 1980s, Horner had a steady stream of major film projects: 48 Hrs. (1982), Krull (1983), Commando (1985), Cocoon (1985), *batteries not included (1987), Willow (1988), Glory (1989), and Field of Dreams (1989).

In the 1990s, Horner remained prolific in his work.  A sample of his filmography includes The Rocketeer (1991), Patriot Games (1992), The Pelican Brief (1993), Braveheart (1995), Apollo 13 (1995), Titanic (1997), The Mask of Zorro (1998), and Bicentennial Man (1999).  Both Braveheart (1995) and Apollo 13 (1995) earned Horner critical acclaim and Academy Award nominations.  However, Titanic (1997), which was his second collaboration with Cameron, earned him two Oscars — Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for My Heart Will Go On which was co-written with Will Jennings.

Throughout the 2000s, Horner continued to work with well-respected film directors and continued to grow his already impressive list of projects: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Troy (2004), Flightplan (2005), Apocalypto (2006), and Avatar (2009).  Avatar (2009) again reunited Horner with Cameron.  Solely working on the project for two years, Horner received critical acclaim for his score and earned him nominations for the Academy Award, the Golden Globe Award, the British Academy Film Award, and the Grammy Award.

Horner’s most recent projects in the 2010s included The Karate Kid (2010), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), and Wolf Totem (2012).  His final project was on the Antoine Fuqua directed film Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which will be released on July 24, 2015.

We certainly lost a great one today.  Rest in peace, James Horner.  You’ll be greatly missed by your fans.

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