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Trevor Horn: ‘My wifes death hit us hard but the family is still together

The record producer talks about waking his parents at 4am to tell them he wanted to be a musician, the death of his wife and how his daughter is now his son.

I was born in Durham, one of four children—first boy, second child. We lived in the middle of a valley next to a huge dairy where my father worked as an engineer. My father, John, was 33 and my mother, Elizabeth, was 20 when they got married. My dads sister was a headmistress and had actually taught my mother. My fathers family somewhat disowned him because my mother came from a mining family and her father was a coal cutter. Growing up, I saw my mothers family all the time but I dont think I saw a Horn once for 15 years.

My parents were horrified I wanted to go into music, even though my father was in a band and played five nights a week. They wanted me to train as a chartered accountant because I was good at maths. But I flunked my exams and kept getting sacked. I had an epiphany at 17 that I needed to become a musician and I woke my parents up at 4am to tell them. They pleaded with me to get one more job, which I did, and when I was fired, I was lucky to get a job playing bass in a band. I went from earning £10 a week for working 40 hours to earning £24 a week working five nights.

Just before Video Killed the Radio Star became a huge hit in 1979, my parents did a whole number on me saying I should train as a teacher because I was nearly 30 and had got nowhere. But I had been producing records for four years and hadnt had a hit but I knew it was a matter of time.

I met my late wife, Jill [Sinclair], just before the big hit. I saw her across a studio and said to the engineer, “She looks cool, whos that?” And he said, “Forget it, shes the studio managers daughter and shes got an Italian boyfriend.” We kept bumping into each other and at one point I played her a demo of Video Killed the Radio Star. It had been turned down by lots of record companies but she heard it and loved it and chased me for a couple of months to sign our group to her label. When we signed elsewhere, we were on the phone and she said, “Since were not doing business, what are you doing on Saturday night?” We got married about a year later.

I was at the birth of all our four children, apart from my son Aaron who arrived prematurely while I was in America and I couldnt get back in time. Becoming a father changed my attitude to work.

(cont.)
We used to have dinner together every night and I would try not to work at weekends. Were all extremely close.

Jills accident [she was mistakenly shot by an air rifle at their home in 2006, which left her severely brain damaged] obviously had an impact on us all—some of us more than others—and were still dealing with it in different ways. But the family is still together and that is the important thing.

Her death two years ago hit us hard and I will always miss her. I think about her a lot and I dont know if I can envisage getting married again.

My daughter Rebecca became my son Will a few years back. It made him so much happier. He feels so much more comfortable within himself and is not an angry person because he feels he is the wrong sex. I didnt have to work to accept the situation. In many respects, Will has always been much more like a man. I think it is amazingly brave of Will to do what he did and Im proud of him. He lives in Nashville now and has a lovely wife, Anna.

I have three grandsons and really enjoy being with them. Im 67 now but still as passionate about my work. I want to see my children prosper and would like to keep making music for as long as I can. Id be happy with that.

The Trevor Horn Band play Rewind South on 20 August, rewindfestival.com