Music Box Dancer is a piano tune famous around the world, written and recorded in the 1970s by Montreal-born musician composer Frank Mills. One could go so far as to call it a mega hit, as it became the number one record in 26 countries and sold millions of singles.
Seventy-three-year-old Mills, who appeared in North Battleford at the Dekker Centre Nov. 17, told his audience Music Box Dancer isn't even his favourite song, nor did he expect it to become so famous. In fact, it was on the B side of a record accidentally delivered to a rock station and, when it hit the air, was an instant smash.
Mills, who was a struggling musician in the business for only a few months, was astounded at its popularity – and happy with the money it brought him so he could carry on his career. He laughed with the audience as he told a story about being stuck in a traffic jam on his way to his debut concert, at which he was nervously expecting up to 500 people. The traffic jam turned out to be the result of a whopping 5,000 people wanting to see him perform Music Box Dancer.
Mills did perform Music Box Dancer at the Dekker Centre concert. In fact, he performed it twice – once as the cap to the story of his career leading up to the time of its sudden popularity, and again to close the show, playing along with digitally remastered tracks from an original recording that featured violins and percussion.
The remastered track of Music Box Dancer was just one of hundreds of recordings found in a warehouse and recovered by Mills some years ago. On those recordings, which had to be digitally saved before the magnetic tape disintegrated, were songs from 40 years of the composer's career.
From those hundreds of songs, including performances with many symphony orchestras, Mills has chosen 13 that he says represent the best of his talent to be included on his latest album, After the Dancer.
He played several of the songs from After the Dancer for the Dekker Centre audience, but it wasn't all music. The evening was really a chance for Mills to share life stories with his audience, putting the music in context. The audience responded with laughter, applause and three standing ovations.
Following the show, fans lined up to purchase items from among more than 20 CDs and mementos. Also available was Mills' Karaoke Piano package that includes a music book to play from and two CDs – one with all the instruments and one minus the piano. Mills explained it's a chance to play the piano along with the sounds of a symphony orchestra, an experience that was the highlight of his career.
The Dekker Centre concert was one of several in western Canada staged as part of the Evening with Frank Mills tour, which he described as his "fifth annual retirement tour."
"I kind of like the west," he told the Battlefords audience. "You guys are fun."
When he's not touring, Mills lives with his wife Brenda in a Vermont farmhouse. He says he loves his John Deere tractor and his herd of heifers.