Harry Miller (21.04.1954 – 10.07.2013)
Harry Jerome Miller was born in Auckland, New Zealand and grew up in Apia, Samoa with his brothers Latu and Maua. On finishing school Harry left home and spent some years in Japan and Hawaii with a Polynesian dancing group from Apia. Harry and wife Monica (nee Hazelman) moved to American Samoa in 1987 where Harry teamed up (on guitar and background vocals) with Jerome Grey (on guitar and vocals) and Aleki Fuimaono (on bass and background vocals) to form the trio Ava. The trio recorded two albums which became popular in the Samoas.
You can hear Harry’s “Jazz-influenced” touch on both albums, especially his solo breaks in the numbers Eleni and Lo’u Sei Oriana. In American Samoa Harry spent over 20 years teaching music at Fa’asao Marist High School. He was also Director of the International Catholic Community Choir at Fatuoaiga. During his life in American Samoa Harry helped out as a studio guitarist and arranger for many Samoan artists and aspiring musicians. Naturally, Harry also played almost every gig available in town, including Flag Day celebrations, corporate inaugurations, and Jazz & Blues festivals in both Samoas.
Of the three of us Harry was the most recorded, both on audio and on video. Some of these clips were kindly posted by friends on YouTube as listed below. Sadly, Harry was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in late 2012. He and Monica flew to Auckland in January 2013 for treatment while staying with Maua and wife Josie Keelan and their children. Harry lost his battle with cancer six months later. Such times of loss are never easy but we were very thankful to have had time to say goodbye. We even managed to jam some more in Auckland just like the old times, and to capture some of his last guitar lines while the energy and desire were still there.
Some of the material we jammed on during Harry’s last few months provided the inspiration for the second The Miller Brothers CD on which I am working at the time of writing. Harry is survived by his wife Monica Miller, their six children Leon, Harry Jr, Tuto’atasi, William, Alfred, Faiane, and many grandchildren on whom he doted. Harry can be described as an unassuming and cool dude. On stage he moved very minimally while dishing out some dazzling guitar lines and fills.
A man of a few words Harry had a dry and wicked sense of humour, not to mention his propensity for practical jokes and pranks.
In two of his funny quips, “E le mafai a” ‘aua “O ia a le ga!”.
Click on the links below to sample some extracts from Harry on YouTube.
Harry Mix This is a mix of three. First, Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim, an abridged version of an unreleased studio jam session with friends Ben, Doug, and Sam in American Samoa in the 1980s. Second, Harry’s solo break in the AVA tune Eleni, which appears to be quite popular amongst Samoan musicians in and outside Samoa. Last, is Harry’s guitar work from another AVA tune called Sei Oriana – intro, solo, outro.
Miller Time August 2009, a post by Daniel Pouesi
Samposium at the Jazz & Blues Festival in Samoa, 2010
La’u Rosa with Samposium on Flag Day, American Samoa, 2011
Coming Home Baby with Samposium on Flag Day, American Samoa, 2011. Note it is erroneously called Bumping On Sunset on YouTube 🙂