James Horner (1953-2015)

The composer of the Oscar-winning Titanic film score has died in a plane crash

Getty Images: James Horner
Published: June 23, 2015 at 10:56 am

James Horner, the prolific Hollywood film composer, has died in an air crash in California, aged 61. A trained pilot, Horner was alone on a small private plane that crashed north of Santa Barbara on Monday.


Horner’s soundtrack album to the 1997 film Titanic sold over 27 million copies worldwide and won the composer two Oscars, for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song. The film’s hit song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ – performed by Celine Dion and co-written by Will Jennings – became one of the biggest-selling singles of all time.

The composer’s first major film score was for the comedy The Lady in Red (1979) starring Gene Wilder. In the 1980s he worked on the Star Trek movie franchise and blockbuster films including Field of Dreams, and Aliens where he first collaborated with director James Cameron. Aliens earned Horner his first Academy Awards nomination.

Scoring over 100 films, he worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest directors, including Oliver Stone, Alan J Pakula, Walter Hill and Ron Howard. He scored Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Apollo 13 (1995). For Cameron’s groundbreaking film Avatar (2009) – the highest grossing movie of all time – Horner spent two years working on the soundtrack.

Born in Hollywood, Horner trained at London’s Royal College of Music before returning to the US to study for a degree in music at the University of Southern California.


Director Ron Howard tweeted: ‘Brilliant composer James Horner, friend & collaborator on 7 movies has tragically died in a plane crash. My heart aches for his loved ones.’


Neil McKimFormer Production Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Neil McKim is the former Production Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He is now the production editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

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