Frank Mills performs at the Port Theatre on Wednesday (Dec. 17).

Overnight success

Singer earns recognition with a song that was almost never recorded.

From the very first moment a radio station spun an instrumental song called Music Box Dancer, everything changed for singer Frank Mills.

“It did change overnight,” Mills said from his home in Vermont.

Music Box Dancer instantly became a huge hit. The single received millions of spins on the radio, earned a 1980 Grammy nomination and helped launch the Quebec native into the international spotlight.

On Wednesday (Dec. 17), the three-time Juno Award winner will be performing at the Port Theatre. Following his performance in the Harbour City, Mills will head to Campbell River, Victoria and Duncan.

Mills was born in Montreal in 1942 and began his music career in the late 1960s while he attended McGill University.

Although Mills grew up in a musical family, his father didn’t entirely agree with him pursuing music as a career.

“My dad was a businessman and my mother was a great piano player and all my uncles and aunts played instruments,” Mills said. “My dad was always very proud of me and he always encouraged me, but he used to say ‘so what are you going to do to make a living?’”

Music Box Dancer was originally recorded along with a bunch of other songs in 1974 as part of a full-length record project for a label. Shortly after the songs were recorded the label folded.

In 1978 Polydor Records Canada Music signed Mills and released Music Box Dancer as a single and as a full-length album that included the songs Mills recorded a few years earlier.

The instant success of Music Box Dancer provided Mills with the financial freedom and flexibility to explore working with different orchestras.

“It opened doors. That was the big thing,” he said. “Music Box Dancer allowed me to take time off and write other music.”

Mills has gone to release countless records, won three Juno Awards and performed all over the world.

When the 72-year-old looks back at his career, he is proud of all the orchestras he’s played with.

“I always involved in classical music despite the fact that I was trying to be a pop piano player,” he said. “When I got to play with these huge orchestras all around the world, particularly in Japan, it just struck me. I hit an apex of my career in my own mind.”

Mills performs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Port Theatre. For more information, including ticket prices, please visit or

arts@nanaimobulletin.comTwitter: @npescod


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