Published on June 22, 2012 by Amy
Bill Miller (born January 23, 1955) is a Native American singer/songwriter of Mohican heritage. He was born on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation, near Shawano in northern Wisconsin.
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Miller’s Mohican name is Fush-Ya Heay Aka (meaning “bird song”). He began playing guitar when he was 12 years old, and is an accomplished player of the Native American flute). In 1973, he moved to Milwaukee and won an art school scholarship; today he is an accomplished artist whose drawings and paintings have been widely praised.
In 1984, he moved to Nashville. His biggest break came when popular musician Tori Amos, after listening to his Red Road CD on her tour bus, asked him to serve as the opening act on her Under the Pink tour. Miller continuously gained fans with other artists from a broad musical spectrum. He went on to tour with diverse musicians such as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, The BoDeans, Richie Havens, and Arlo Guthrie and wrote songs with artists such as Nanci Griffith, Peter Rowan and Kim Carnes.
In 2005, Miller’s instrumental Cedar Dream Songs won a Grammy Award for “Best Native American Music Album”.
In an interview, Bill said, “I appreciate people who have something to stand up for. I stand up for the truth. If you stand up for what you believe in you have no idea how many people you’ll affect.” Miller’s songs have always been deeply spiritual and have clearly explored his Christian faith in his own indigenous language; Spirit Rain exemplifies this elegant dialog. He crossed genres with his 2000 record, Hear Our Prayer, which was released by Integrity Music as a Christian worship music project. While some songs were co-written by notable songwriters in the genre, he re-recorded some familiar songs such as “Praises” from The Red Road and “Listen to Me” from Raven in the Snow which, in a new context made clear that he could still be fully Native and fully a Christian. Perhaps the most notable cuts on the album were his cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Believe in You” and a reinterpretation of the spiritual “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”
Miller has collaborated with other notable Native American musicians such as Robert Mirabal, Carlos Nakai, and Joanne Shenandoah. His project with Mirabal, Native Suite was an experimental and traditional project, featuring flute and percussion, as well as Mohican pow-wow singing. His vocals appeared on Thomas Kinkade’s 2000 album Music of Light which featured Rob Mathes and Australian Christian diva Michelle Tumes; he also was featured on Cherokee singer-songwriter Jason Upton’s album Great River Road.
In early 2008, Miller worked on a project in La Crosse, Wisconsin for The Pump House, a regional arts center. Miller painted one of many 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) herons that will be auctioned off and placed around the city in honor of fine arts. Also in that city, on April 25, 2008′ and April 26, the world premier of his symphony, ‘The Last Stand’, was performed by the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, along with Native American musicians and dancers, with Amy Mills conducting. Co-composed with Joshua Yudkin and Kristin Wilkinson, the symphony grew out of an inspiration Miller had, after visiting the Battle of the Little Bighorn site when he was nine. Called a ‘symphony of hope’, it deals with that battle, and the reconciliation Bill Miller, a man dedicated to his Native and Christian roots, feels must occur.