Bill Miller, the pianist who accompanied singer Frank Sinatra for more than 40 years and played on many of his greatest records, has died at age 91, his daughter said on Sunday. Miller had been hospitalized in Montreal, where he had been performing with Frank Sinatra Jr., after breaking a hip and then suffering a heart attack. He died on Tuesday.
Born in New York City, Miller started his long partnership with the elder Sinatra in 1951, and played on hit songs such as "My Way," "Strangers in the Night" and "Young at Heart." The partnership was so strong that even when Sinatra recorded with jazz piano legend Count Basie, Miller still played on some of the album's ballads. Miller stayed with Sinatra except for an interruption of six years starting in the late 1970s after a spat, and played at the singer's last concert in 1995. For the past eight years he had been working with Frank Jr., who recently told The Washington Post that Miller was "the greatest singer's pianist there ever was."
Miller's daughter Meredith, who lives in Berkeley, California, said her father was a whiz at reading music and helped Sinatra translate the notes on the page into memorable songs. "It's not that (Sinatra) didn't read music at all, he didn't read it particularly well," she said in an interview. "That was one of the things my dad really did. He kind of interpreted -- he could read anything." Meredith Miller said her father, who lived for the past half century in Burbank, California, was easy going, a quality that served him well with the sometimes tempestuous Sinatra.
"He kept a low profile," she said. "He never insisted on anything. He didn't seek out fame. He was very low key and I think that was one of the reasons that he and Frank Sr. and Frank Jr. -- but Frank Sr. in particular -- got along so well.