Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | 5:13 p.m.
Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with darling “The Rat Pack Show” singer Lisa Dawn Miller-Hackett.
Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records, wrote, “Ron Miller, an artist like you does not only come ‘For Once in My Life,’ but for once, period. You will be missed by your Motown family and by all of those you touched along your wonderful journey through life. Your music will live forever and ever.”
“Motown, the Musical” opened to great success this year on Broadway. It takes the audience on an incredible journey through life, passion, music and beating the odds. Motown didn’t just make music — Motown made history and changed the landscape of music forever.
For all its success, historical significance and the many legendary careers born at Motown, such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and countless others, little is known about a young, Jewish songwriter with a very Rodgers & Hammerstein musical theater writing style who was discovered by Gordy Jr. and Motown executive Mickey Stevenson in Chicago in the early 1960s.
That young songwriter was my dad, Ron Miller, and he made history right alongside his Motown family, when Gordy Jr. brought him to Detroit as one of Motown’s first staff writers.
Writing such hits as “For Once in My Life,” “Touch Me in the Morning,” “Heaven Help Us All,” “A Place in the Sun,” “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday,” “I’ve Never Been to Me,” “Someday at Christmas,” “If I Could” and many more, I have often been asked how my father could write lyrics like no other — sensitive and touching, moving listeners to tears in a profound and meaningful way.
My journey to discover the answer began as a child — not knowing that listening to my dad’s lyrics growing up gave me guidance, strength, joy and hope during trials and tribulations. Was it his own life experience that gave him such a deep insight? Was it his compassion? Was it his hope for a brighter tomorrow? Was it his passion or was it his love for his fellow man?
I never did get to ask him these questions. He passed away on July 23, 2007, at age 74. His songs got me through that most difficult time in my life and subsequent years of challenge and triumph.
This year, I am producing a film based upon my father’s life and career: “For Once in My Life — The Story of Legendary Songwriter Ron Miller.” I have allowed time to tell the story and meaning of his life so that his legacy will emerge honestly, like the lyrics he wrote.
I’m struck by the emotion of so many people as they remember him. My son Oliver Richman and I were invited by Stevie Wonder to perform with him at Nokia Theater Live L.A. Holding back tears, Wonder spoke so affectionately and fondly of my father and the memories they shared. Tony Bennett talks about my dad when he performs and always tells the story of the first time my father played him “For Once in My Life.”
Ron Miller really cared about people. He wrote of peace and hope for a better tomorrow during a time of war and the Civil Rights movement. He didn’t just write about it. He lived it. Together, with his Motown brothers, this young Jewish kid from Chicago made history.
It was the perfect blend of talent, passion, friendship, hunger and energy in a world called Motown where differences were respected and brought together synergistically through the universal language of music, resulting in positive change and hope.
For every “For Once in My Life,” there are a hundred songs no one has heard yet — all just as beautiful, all standards waiting to be born. I hope to share these songs with the world and watch Ron Miller take his place among the greatest writers of our time. He deserves to be there.
Ron Miller is an American treasure whose songs have been the fabric of our lives. His legacy as such a gifted songwriter is etched in history by his work. His songs are timeless and will live on through the ages. His legacy as a loving, down-to-earth guy who cared about people, equality, kindness and love is what inspires me.
His legacy as a father remains in my heart forever. I can only hope that I live my life in a positive way and that I can stand as a testament to his dream of peace, hope, love and equality.
I miss you, Daddy.
Check out our other guest columns today from Las Vegas manager and producer Seth Yudof and entertainer Sandy Hackett of “The Rat Pack Show” and Wednesday hypnotist Marc Savard, photographer Jeff Mitchum, who just opened a gallery at MGM Grand, and Charissa Davidovici of Sugar Factory.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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