Sunday, December 14, 2014

Remembering Glenn Miller 70 Years Later

On December 15, 1944, Glenn Miller was at the height of his career as an American bandleader with hits that were so magnificent that to this day, they still have their familiarity and their shine. With so much in store for the years ahead, on a flight from Britain to Paris, Miller disappeared. His lost was an immense tragedy in the world of music at large, for if the World War II era had a face for their music, it would have been Glenn Miller. Of course, this era also had The Andrew Sisters, The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, among other notable acts. It was Miller, however, that created music that was either jingly or just notable to the point that it created a life for itself.

The Miller song that most will remember him for is "In the Mood." I recall hearing this swing song as it preceded a cooking-based infomercial, but was introduced to this song when I listened to it as an attachment to a novelty item my grandparents owned (dancing flowers in a pot). This song is just so upbeat and brings with it a breeze of optimism no matter when it may be played. While the first verse is most commonly heard, the song continues to flow with some alternate instruments and beats that just clearly do as the song entails (putting you in the mood).

"Moonlight Serenade," however, should definitely not be overlooked. This is a song that is just so modestly brilliant that it does to mellow as "In the Mood" does to upbeat. The song is clarinet led, but features the soothing sounds of the other instruments in appropriate increments. Miller himself was a trombone player. This was Miller's first hit and tells a story of a romantic night, properly giving justice to the story line. The sounds you hear in "Moonlight Serenade" repeat after each other a bit more often than with "In the Mood," but both songs are equally beautiful. It all comes down to what your tastes may be.

Glenn Miller's other hits include "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," among so many other tunes that became immediate classics.

Miller was eager to do his part in the second World War and wanted to help in any which way he possibly could. Unfortunately, age kept him from serving in combat (he was in his late-thirties during the war and forty in 1944), so he was able to take on entertaining the troops as the head of the Air Force band. He was successful at entertaining troops on the allied AND axis sides. As I mentioned earlier, he was set to perform in Paris, but disappeared when flying his plane from Britain to Paris, France. What could have possibly happened to Miller? The most reasonable explanation is given in an article written in the Chicago Tribune by Howard Reich, as he reviewed an episode of History Detectives. He states that three attributes contributed to why the plane went down:

1. The weather was foggy and cold.
2, The carburetors were faulty.
3. The pilot was inexperienced.

With these factors taken into account, it would be logical to think that the carburetors froze or gave out on the people in the plane, causing it to crash. At the time, details were immensely vague and it took nine days to deliver the news back to the United States. From that point in time and for the seventy years following, Miller was pronounced as having disappeared, so confirming his death is likely, but still not certain for that occasion. All that was certain was that a giant hole was left in the world of music.

Glenn Miller may be gone, but his music lives on. I find Miller as being the definition of the music of his era, even if there were notable musical acts of that period. His music seems to just capture the moment and even when his music does not have words and lyrics, they tell a story and flow so poetically. On a day like this, perhaps it would be a magnificent idea to take the time to listen to a tune or two of his.

I will leave you with the informative Chicago Tribune article and some links to "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade." All credit is given to the creators of these works.

Glenn Miller Disappearance Article
Moonlight Serenade
In the Mood

1 comment:

  1. I actually did a collaboration project with TJ Schreiber last school year on swing music. It involved watching the Ken Burns Jazz documentary.