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Rupert Hine, synth-pop music producer, dies at 72
Rupert Hine produced two albums for Rush — “Presto” in 1989 and “Roll the Bones” in 1991.

by Jon Pareles

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Rupert Hine, a prolific English producer and songwriter who thrived in the synth-pop heyday of the 1980s making hits with Tina Turner, the Fixx and Howard Jones, died on June 4 at his home in Wiltshire, England. He was 72.

The death was confirmed on his website. His wife, Fay Morgan Hine, said he had quadruple bypass surgery in 2010 and learned he had renal cancer in 2011.

Hine began his recording career in 1965 and made six albums under his own name from 1971 to 1994, as well as albums with a group he started, Quantum Jump, in the 1970s.

But he was better known as a hit-making producer. He produced the Grammy-winning Turner hit “Better Be Good to Me” and other songs for her in the 1980s, and he produced the biggest hits by the Fixx, Jones and Duncan Sheik. He also made albums with Stevie Nicks, Rush, Suzanne Vega and Underworld, and produced all-star projects dedicated to environmental awareness and to human rights in Tibet.

“I never wanted to be a rock star,” he told the website in 2011, adding, “But I’ve always loved the idea of painting pictures with sound.”

Rupert Neville Hine was born Sept. 21, 1947, in London, the son of Maurice and Joan (Harris) Hine. His mother was a nurse, and his father sold lumber. Rupert taught himself to play piano but never learned to read music.

He made his recording debut in 1965 as part of the folk duo Rupert and David, with David McIver. McIver wrote lyrics for Hine’s first solo albums in the early 1970s.

Hine’s band Quantum Jump had a hit in Britain with “The Lone Ranger,” which was released in 1976 and quickly banned by the BBC for references to drug use and homosexuality. But it was revived by radio and television play in 1979, and a remix reached No. 5 on the British charts.

Hine began producing albums in the 1970s, notably for progressive rockers Kevin Ayers, Anthony Phillips and the band Camel. His own songs leaned toward the atypical structures and cerebral concepts of progressive rock.

The ways his production melded acoustic and synthetic sounds aligned with pop’s embrace of new wave and synth-pop in the 1980s. He often played keyboards and synthesizers in his own productions. As electronic instruments emerged, he was a founding member of the International MIDI Association, which standardized the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) specifications that make most synthesizers interoperable.

Hine produced two albums by Jones, including the million-selling “Dream Into Action,” and the first four albums by the Fixx, among them “Reach the Beach” in 1983, with the hit “One Thing Leads to Another.”

He also produced songs for Turner’s three multimillion-selling 1980s studio albums, including “Better Be Good to Me” and the title song for her 1986 album, “Break Every Rule,” which he co-wrote. He produced two albums for Rush — “Presto” in 1989 and “Roll the Bones” in 1991 — and produced Nicks’ million-selling “The Other Side of the Mirror” in 1989.

Hine resumed his solo career in the early 1980s, writing songs with lyrics by Jeannette-Thérèse Obstoj and releasing three albums under his own name, each gleaming with electronic sounds. Anticipating a backlash from the music press against a hit-making producer, he billed himself as a fictitious band, Thinkman, singing about subverting the media. He played nearly all of the instruments on Thinkman albums released in 1985, 1986 and 1990. Actors portrayed band members for photos and television appearances.

In 1990, Hine was the producer for a BBC project, “One World, One Voice,” a 54-minute track assembled by Kevin Godley of the group 10cc. Dedicated to environmental concerns, the music and video strung together contributions from a global array of musicians, including Afrika Bambaataa, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Lou Reed, Chrissie Hynde, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Milton Nascimento, Joe Strummer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Salif Keita and the Chieftains.

Hine went on to produce Sheik’s 1996 debut album, “Duncan Sheik,” which included the hit “Barely Breathing.” He made his final album as a songwriter under his own name, titled “The Deep End,” in 1994, working with members of Underworld and the Fixx.

He continued producing in the 2000s, including albums for Vega, Geoffrey Oryema and Teitur as well as another politically conscious project, “Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace” (2008), with songs from Sting, Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews and John Mayer. A follow-up, “Songs for Tibet II” (2015), had songs from Lorde, Kate Bush and Gabriel.

In addition to Morgan Hine, who he married in 2015, Hine is survived by a son from a previous marriage, Kingsley Hine; his stepchildren Amy Armstrong and Sam Armstrong; and a sister, Julie Juniper.

Hine worked to nurture songwriters in recent years. He was a board member of the Ivors Academy, formerly the British Association of Songwriters Composers and Arrangers. He ran a publishing company, Auditorius, as a joint venture with BMG. And with technology writer Alan Graham, he started the company One-Click Licence, creating an app to streamline music licensing.

Unlike some producers, Hine didn’t set out to impose a signature sound. “What is this artist trying to say?” he said in a 2019 YouTube interview with Cherry Red Records. “With each individual song, how is he wanting to change the way the audience feels four minutes later?”

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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