Bain was born in Newtonmore, Highland, and played in several provincial amateur bands as a young teen. His parents and younger brothers relocated to Vancouver. By this point, he was playing professionally in Street Noise. However, he did join his family for a brief stay in Canada. Before returning to Scotland, getting his band Harlot and then hitting the London music scene, Bain joined Harlot in early 1974, after turning down a job with The Babys.
Bain was asked to join Rainbow after Ritchie Blackmore had watched him performing at The Marquee in London. He recorded the studio album Rising with them and played on their following world tour. While on the tour, he played on Rainbow's first live album, On Stage. In January 1977, Bain was sacked from the band. He then toured Europe with John Cale.
In 1978, Bain formed a band called Wild Horses. Jimmy was the lead vocalist, songwriter, as well as bassist for the band, which also included ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson, drummer Clive Edwards (Pat Travers, Uli Jon Roth's Electric Sun) and guitarist Neil Carter (who went on to UFO and Gary Moore). Wild Horses released two albums on EMI in Europe, Wild Horses (1980) and Stand Your Ground (1981), the latter featuring John Lockton (ex-The Next Band) in place of Carter, before Robertson and Edwards both left in June of 1981. Robertson joined Motörhead the following year while Edwards joined former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden's S.O.S.
Bain co-wrote with his close friend Phil Lynott for the Lizzy man's two solo albums. A keyboard player as well as a bassist, he toured the material playing keyboards with Lynott's band. Their song, "Old Town" was re-recorded by The Corrs in 1999, and became a big hit world wide.
He was secretly brought in by the German hard rockers Scorpions to play bass guitar on their 1984 album Love at First Sting. The leader of the band, rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, wanted him to join the Scorpions as full-time bassist, but their management wanted to keep the line-up German, so Francis Buchholz was brought back and Bain's bass tapes were deleted.
In 1983, Bain linked up again with ex-Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio for the band Dio. A central figure within Dio, Bain co-wrote "Rainbow in the Dark", "Holy Diver" and two additional songs which appear on their 1983 released first album, Holy Diver. Bain co-wrote several other songs for the following albums, The Last in Line (1984), Sacred Heart (1985), Intermission (1986), Dream Evil (1987) and Killing the Dragon (2002).
In the mid-1980s, when the entertainment community became active in drawing attention to world charities, Bain founded Hear 'n Aid, a foundation in which he could involve the rock community to help eliminate world hunger. He also co-wrote the song, "Stars," with Vivian Campbell and Ronnie James Dio, which became the Heavy Rock world's answer to "We Are The World". "Stars" provided a major contribution to the famine relief charity appeal. Bain donated all of his shares of the proceeds to one of his favourite charities, Children of the Night.
In 2005, Bain again joined forces with former Black Sabbath and Dio drummer, Vinny Appice, for two projects, The Hollywood All Starz and 3 Legged Dogg. While the Hollywood All Starz performed live concerts featuring greatest hits sets of the individual members, (Carlos Cavazo of Quiet Riot was another notable member of the band), 3 Legged Dogg produced a well received album of original material. In an interview with journalist, David Lee Wilson, Bain lamented Appice's ultimate choice to leave both these groups so that he could tour with Ronnie James Dio in the Black Sabbath offshoot, Heaven and Hell.
Bain toured with Hollywood Allstarz, a supergroup featuring a number of 1980s metal stars. The group has included former members of Giuffria, Quiet Riot, and Lynch Mob. The band Last in Line was put together in 2013 comprising Bain, Viv Campbell, Vinny Appice, Claude Schnell and Andrew Freeman. That line-up (excluding singer Freeman) were the original songwriters and performers on the early classic Dio albums, and so intended to play gigs and to perform those songs.
Bain died while on Def Leppard's "Hysteria on the High Seas" cruise. He was performing on the cruise with the group Last In Line. No official cause of death is known at this time, but band members informed fans on the cruise that he had been battling pneumonia for some time.
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