J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller’s big band hits, like “Moonlight Serenade” and “In the Mood” were heard by millions, but Miller would never be heard from again, after his Army Air transport was lost crossing the Channel to France on December, 15, 1944. He was scheduled to travel on to Paris for a Christmas broadcast, as part of his tireless efforts to entertain and boost the morale of the American troops.

Miller didn’t have to be on that fateful flight. He had volunteered for service at 38, well past draft age, and had trouble finding a taker for his services, until the Army put him in charge of the Army Air Force Band. Although Miller’s music is considered too sweet and staid for most contemporary jazz enthusiasts, the Army Air Corp Band is still respected for the caliber of the musicians Miller was able to draw from the service.

Maj. Miller’s Bronze Star Citation reads in part: “for meritorious service in connection with military operations as Commander of the Army Air Force Band (Special) from 9 July 1944 to 15 December 1944. Major Miller, through excellent judgment and professional skill, conspicuously blended the abilities of the outstanding musicians, comprising the group, into a harmonious orchestra whose noteworthy contribution to the morale of the armed forces has been little less than sensational (from the Arlington National Cemetery website).

In many ways, the National Socialists were literally at war with jazz. While they oppressed jazz artists in Germany and occupied Europe (like Svend Asmussen), American swing bands, Glenn Miller in particular, provided the soundtrack for the heroic Allied War Effort.