Part of growing up is learning how to say “goodbye.” Sometimes, that means having to bid farewell to friends and family alike. Composer James Horner was neither of these things to me. I never had the privilege of meeting the man. Even so, through the music he produced for dozens of movies in a period spanning nearly four decades, I have felt as though I’ve come to know him well. Most of my favorite film scores were his, and it is the knowledge that we’ve heard the last of his brilliant and beautiful creations that hits me the hardest.

Horner’s first major film score was for 1979’s “The Lady in Red,” when he was just 26 years old. His list of credits would grow to include “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” “48 Hrs.,” “Cocoon,” “Commando,” “Aliens,” “An American Tail,” “Willow,” “The Land Before Time,” ” Field of Dreams,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “Glory,” “Patriot Games,” “Legends of the Fall,” Braveheart,” Apollo 13,” “Titanic,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Avatar” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” among many others. There is even at least one key scene towards the end of “Die Hard” where that film’s composer, Michael Kamen, briefly hands over the reigns to Horner.

Looking over this list,  I see many films which I grew up with, whose soundtracks I know by heart. Whenever I went on an out-of-state field trip in both middle school and high school, I maintained a tradition of bringing along with me the soundtrack to “Apollo 13.” As soon as the bus would pull out of the school parking lot, I would immediately press “PLAY” on the Main Title theme. I’ve been listening to that one a lot since last night’s sad news first broke. Anybody who grew up in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s will doubtless recall the numerous movie trailers which made use of the track “Bishop’s Countdown” from Horner’s “Aliens” score. Epic stuff. But I keep going back to those soundtracks for “Star Trek II” and “Star Trek III.” A Trekker since the age of four, I’ve counted those two soundtracks as my absolute favorite of any movie to this very day. Although I have grown weary of the overuse of “Amazing Grace” at every single funeral I attend or see displayed on television, I count Horner’s rendition from “Star Trek II” as the only version I’ll never tire of hearing. Right now, though, I can’t bear to listen to it. The wound is still too fresh.

For me, it’s unusual for a celebrity’s demise to hit me the way James Horner’s has. Part of it is his young age of 61. Another factor is the manner in which he left us. The sudden, unexpected plane crash that claimed him, a man whose other passion beyond creating beautiful music was in soaring through the skies, only makes it harder to accept. Yet, here we are… living in a world without James Horner in it. 2015 has been an especially hard year to be a “Star Trek” fan. We had already lost “Star Trek: The Next Generation” producer/writer Maurice Hurley, Harve Bennett (executive producer of Star Trek II, III, IV and V), actress Grace Lee Whitney and Mr. Spock, himself: Leonard Nimoy. But even Nimoy has not had the impact on my life which Horner and his music did. The best way I can think of to find solace is the belief that he will never be truly dead as long as his life’s work continues to make similar impressions on others in the years to come.


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