Rupert Hine obituary

Folk singer who went on to become a successful record producer, working with Tina Turner, Howard Jones and Suzanne Vega

The musical career of Rupert Hine, who has died aged 72, might have been designed as the antidote to pigeonholing. Starting in the early 1960s as half of the folk duo Rupert & David, for which he teamed up with David MacIver, Hine made solo albums during the 70s, 80s and 90s, in between group projects with Quantum Jump, Thinkman and Spin 1ne 2wo. Additionally, he composed regularly for film and television soundtracks, including the James Bond film Goldeneye and the black comedy Better Off Dead.

Meanwhile he was in constant demand as a producer, amassing a huge number of credits with some of the biggest artists of his era. In 1984 he topped the UK chart with Howard Jones’s debut album, Human’s Lib, and that same year enjoyed his most high-profile achievement with his work on Tina Turner’s album Private Dancer, which established Turner as a solo star and sold 20m copies; Hine produced the Grammy-winning single Better Be Good to Me as well as co-writing I Might Have Been Queen.

Hine produced a string of albums for the Fixx which enjoyed great success in the US, collaborated with Stevie Nicks on The Other Side of the Mirror (1989), which entered the Top 10 in the US and UK, and again rode high in the transatlantic charts with Rush’s albums Presto (1989) and Roll the Bones (1991). Saga, Bob Geldof, Suzanne Vega, the Waterboys, the Thompson Twins, Chris de Burgh and Milla Jovovich were among many others who featured on Hine’s CV.

Born in Wimbledon, south-west London, Rupert was the son of Maurice, a timber merchant, and Joan (nee Harris), a Red Cross nurse. Though his mother was convinced he was going to become an architect, Hine’s earliest ambition was to become a cartographer. He attended St John’s school in Horsham, West Sussex, and King’s College school, Wimbledon, and was musically self-taught. “He was a fantastic piano player but he couldn’t read a note of music,” said his wife, Fay.

His first professional recording venture was Rupert & David’s version of Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence, after they had played some gigs supporting the then little-known Simon. They had been signed to Decca by Dick Rowe, but the single went nowhere and “things plummeted to nothing over the succeeding months,” as Hine put it.

For several years he continued writing songs with MacIver while working at temporary jobs, until he was thrown a lifeline by Deep Purple’s bassist Roger Glover, whom Hine knew from Glover’s previous band Episode 6. Hine and MacIver were signed to Deep Purple’s Purple label, and Glover produced Hine’s first solo album, Pick Up a Bone (1971). Listeners remained un-stirred by its somewhat gauche folk-rock, while the follow-up Unfinished Picture (1973) fared little better.

However, he was now getting a foothold in independent production work, one of his first efforts being the 1972 single Who Is the Doctor, featuring Jon Pertwee narrating over the theme music from TV’s Doctor Who. He then produced Yvonne Elliman’s album Food of Love (1973), an eccentric second world war-themed compilation album called Colditz (1973, “the most barking mad album I’ve ever done,” Hine said later), and Kevin Ayers’s The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories (1974).

Hine’s urbane and courteous manner allowed him to strike up an easy rapport with artists, no matter what their style of music. “I’ve yet to work with a more affable, patient, funny and bloody good producer,” said Anthony Phillips, for whom Hine produced a couple of albums in the 70s after Phillips left Genesis. Hine stressed that he “always had a great dislike for the idea that the producer would come with a built-in sound” that they applied to every artist. “I always treated it much more like a therapist, in other words, what is this artist trying to say?”

Keen to pursue his own music, he formed the quartet Quantum Jump, an attempt to blend jazz-rock with classic pop. Their albums, Quantum Jump (1976) and Barracuda (1977), failed to chart, but they enjoyed a belated Top 10 hit single with The Lone Ranger in 1979 after Hine had spiced it up by adding the world’s longest word to the intro. It was in Maori, and he discovered it while “sitting on the loo reading the Guinness Book of Records”.

Based at his own Farmyard Studios in Buckinghamshire (located in the former property of the actor Dirk Bogarde), with his regular sound engineer and co-producer, Stephen W Tayler, Hine resumed his solo career in 1981 with Immunity, co-writing songs with the lyricist Jeannette Obstöj. He worked with her again on Waving Not Drowning (1982) and Wildest Wish to Fly (1983).

He now launched his Thinkman project, again collaborating with Obstöj. The first album, The Formula (1985), was a conceptual piece comprising Bowie-like electronic pop, its songs based on the notion that Thinkman were “media terrorists” keen to “right global wrongs”, partly by exposing media lies. Hine did most of the recording work himself, but for live performances formed a group made up of actors, including the comedian Julian Clary, which, as Hine pointed out, meant that they were naturals when it came to making promotional videos. Hine also developed a film script for the Thinkman concept, but despite interest from Chris Blackwell of Island Records nothing came of it. Thinkman released a further two albums, and in 2019 came a retrospective compilation called Fighting Apathy With Shock.

In 1990 Hine collaborated with Kevin Godley on One World One Voice, an environmental awareness album created by sending a multitrack tape around the world so artists on different continents could add their contributions. He had been working on activities in support of Friends of the Earth to mark this year’s 30th anniversary, which will include a reissue of the album and a repeat of the BBC’s film of the project.

Hine’s final solo album of new material was The Deep End (1994). The following year he assembled a squad of seasoned musicians including Paul Carrack and Steve Ferrone to make Spin 1ne 2wo, a collection of covers of songs by Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, The Who and others.

Latterly Hine became increasingly absorbed in making innovative contributions to the music industry. He chaired the songwriters’ committee of the British Association of Songwriters, Composers and Arrangers (BASCA), sat on the Ivor Novello Awards committee and encouraged young songwriters through Auditorius, the music publishing company he launched with BMG.

With the tech writer and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Alan Graham, Hine formed One-Click Licence (OCL). They created the Totem service, designed to help app developers overcome complex music licensing issues, and NDIID, a high-speed connectivity app.

Hine suffered from a number of medical problems, including renal cancer and heart arrhythmia. He is survived by his wife, Fay Morgan Hine, whom he met in 2008 and married in 2015, his son, Kingsley, from his marriage to Natasha Barrault, which ended in divorce, his stepchildren, Amy and Sam, and his sister Julie.

• Rupert Neville Hine, record producer, musician and songwriter, born 21 September 1947; died 4 June 2020


Adam Sweeting

The GuardianTramp

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