August 2nd, 2010
Mitch Miller, the man who seemed to have inspired the formation of countless gay men’s choruses, has died. Miller was a major force in the music industry for many years, and his importance can’t be minimized, but his music wasn’t for me. Twenty years ago, a review I liked of a Mitch Miller Christmas album that had been released on CD was short and to the point — “Welcome to Hell.” Ray Conniff worked with Mitch Miller at Columbia, and I love his album We Wish You A Merry Christmas. I’ve always wondered if that’s Mitch on the cover. (I had a huge crush on the girl when I was a kid, whoever she is.)
I also have an appreciation for the singing of the delightful Lennon Sisters, who were favorites of Lawrence Welk. But there was always something too cloying and mechanically rote for my taste in Mitch Miller’s recordings. His most famous failing was not realizing that the times they were a’changin in the 60′s, when John Hammond brought Bob Dylan to Columbia. But an inability to appreciate talent outside of one’s own taste is something that could be said of many of the old-style A&R (artist and repertoire) men in the music business.
The superb vocalist Jo Stafford worked with Miller. In the persona of the perfectly off-key Darlene Edwards, Jo recorded a dead-on parody of the famous Mitch Miller sound.