Steve Miller: Your Saving Grace

5 Oct

Birthday greetings to Steve Miller, who celebrates No. 68 today.

There are few musicians for whom the before and after contrast is as stark as it is for Miller. Before Fly Like An Eagle, he was counter-culture, bluesy, cool, underground FM available; after Fly Like an Eagle he was commercial, mainstream, conformist, overplayed and uninspiring. Before Miller was the highlights, after Miller was Miller Lite.

You could hear Fly Like An Eagle songs seemingly everywhere but in elevators (every time I hear Take The Money and Run, I feel like doing so, away from the song). The metamorphosis started with The Joker in 1973 — Miller’s first No. 1 hit — which gave us the expression “pompatus of love,” but was still of a different feel than Fly Like An Eagle. We’re not sure what happened, but we can guess that it’s good to be No. 1.

If you’re familiar only with the After Miller, know that there’s an earlier and better decade of Miller to listen to. Mentored when young by jazz guitarist Les Paul, a family friend, Miller’s early band mates included Boz Scaggs,  who had his own breakout album (Silk Degrees),  Ben Sidran, author, pianist and critic, and, if you know what I mean, Lee Michaels, whose one and only hit was Do You Know What I Mean.

Miller’s early work was rebellious, enduring and worthy of appreciation: Space Cowboy, Living In The U.S.A., Going To Mexico, Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around, Going To The Country, etc. A link to Your Saving Grace and lyrics from the same below:

 And now I spend my life
On the velvet side of hell
Aimlessly here searching
For what I cannot tell

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