Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Marvin Gaye…these artists were the soundtrack of Mark Arthur Miller’s young life growing up on Chicago’s South Side. Raised by his mother and grandparents at 87th and King and separated from his father, songwriter Ron Miller, the family remained in the neighborhood as so-called “white flight” to the suburbs changed it from white to black. A goldmine of cultural experience was the result.
The new sounds in R&B and soul music from Motown filtered out from windows, playing on turntables and radios in every teen’s funky lair. Kids sat on porches and braided each other’s hair – including Mark’s, the sole white kid – and sang along. The friends pretended they were the Temptations, copped their moves and called their groups forward-leaning names like INTEGRATION.
Mark had a visceral connection to soul music he couldn’t explain–until he heard Stevie Wonder’s 1968 single “For Once in My Life” and realized it was his father’s song. The late Ron Miller was originally a staff writer at Motown in the stable of other great writers like Holland-Dozier-Holland, Mickey Stevenson and Harvey Fuqua. His hits for the label include “A Place in the Sun,” “For Once in My Life,” “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yester-day,” “Heaven Help Us All,” “Touch Me in the Morning,” “Someday at Christmas” and “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge.”
Less than three hundred miles away in Detroit, Ron Miller was writing the kind of music Mark describes as “my DNA.” But at that point, estranged from his son for over 10 years, Ron Miller was just a label on a 45.
That changed forever when Mark and his sister reconnected with the elder Miller and moved to Los Angeles with him when Motown relocated in the 1970s. A lifelong bond was formed, and through Ron’s work Mark frequently found himself in the company of idols Stevie, Smokey, Marvin, Diana and more.
Mark’s career path was first influenced by athletics and acting. After college, where he played both basketball and tennis, Mark competed on national tennis tours as a professionally ranked player, and at the same time began an acting career, sending his coaches into fits over his dual lifestyle.
Mark focused on acting when he moved back to Chicago at age 21. He co-founded Reflections Theatre Ensemble there, and then went to New York where he performed in numerous theatrical productions before returning to Los Angeles, where he co-founded The Road Theater Company. In LA, in addition to theater he is active in television and films. Music, however, has the front seat.
Once Ron Miller realized his son’s singing talent, he would often have Mark sing demos of his songs. Mark began performing in such popular venues as Rockwell Table and Stage, Catalina Jazz, The Federal and The Cinegrill, where Ron was often in the audience until his death in 2007.
SOUL SEARCHING, the recording, has found its way onto playlists on radio all over the world. Naturally it features some Ron Miller hits, as well as originals by Mark Arthur Miller and other classic Motown songs.
“I love music, period,” says Mark. “I started out singing jazz, and I love Sondheim and rock and pop. But soul music was my first influence. That’s my heart.”