Mitch Miller just died at the age of 99. Boy, talk about someone I didn’t know was still alive.
Miller was an important figure in the music world of my youth, and not always in a positive way. He is remembered, fairly or not, as someone who, as an executive at Columbia Records, made decisions influenced in part by his low opinion of then-emerging rock and roll. As a music maker himself, Miller was famous for his series of “Sing Along” albums by Mitch Miller and the Gang, “the Gang” being a large male chorus. My parents had half-a-dozen of these albums, which always included lyric sheets so everyone in the family could sing along. The first “Sing Along” album featured tracks such as “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” and “You Are My Sunshine.”
Miller turned these successful albums into a television series, meaning “the whole family” (i.e. parents, grandparents, and the kids they could still control) had a show to watch together. Each episode ended with a sing-along … someone “famous” would usually appear in the chorus as a kind of sneak guest:
Kids across the nation learned to imitate Miller’s pumping arms. It was our chance to make fun of our parents’ music. Try this out: find an early boomer, one born between 1946 and, oh, 1955, and ask them to imitate Mitch Miller. I bet a lot of them will be able to do it in a second.