Bill Miller, who was Frank Sinatra’s pianist for nearly 50 years until the singer’s last performance in 1995, has died. He was 91. Miller died Tuesday at a Montreal hospital of complications from a heart attack, his daughter, Meredith, told the Los Angeles Times.
“Bill Miller was the greatest accompanist that any popular singer ever had,” Sinatra’s son, Frank Jr., told the Times. “There was no one who had his touch, no one who had his taste.”
When Sinatra died of a heart attack in 1998 at age 82, Miller played “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” at the funeral. About six months after Sinatra died, his son convinced Miller to come out of retirement and the two had been performing together ever since.
About two weeks ago, Miller fell and broke his hip while performing in Canada on July 1. Shortly after the accident, he suffered a heart attack and underwent heart bypass surgery.
“There are lots of great piano players but to be an accompanist to a singer is really an art form,” said Al Viola, who was Sinatra’s longtime guitarist. “It’s a conversation, but you really have to listen and pay respect to the singer.”
Miller was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was largely a self-taught pianist. He began playing professionally at 16 and within two years had gotten an orchestra job. He went on to play with giants such as Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Charlie Barnet.
In 1951, Miller was playing the lounge at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas when Sinatra came to hear him. The crooner liked Miller’s understated style and asked him to join his TV show. The two went on to share the stage for 46 years, except for several years starting in 1978 when they had a falling out.
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