Music Box Dancer

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"Music Box Dancer"
Music Box Dancer - Frank Mills.jpg
Single by Frank Mills
from the album Music Box Dancer
A-side"The Poet and I"
ReleasedJanuary 1979
GenreEasy listening
Songwriter(s)Frank Mills
Producer(s)Frank Mills
Frank Mills singles chronology
"Love Me, Love Me Love"
"Music Box Dancer"
"Peter Piper"
Audio sample
"Music Box Dancer"

"Music Box Dancer" is an instrumental piece by Canadian musician Frank Mills that was an international hit in the late 1970s. It features an arpeggiated piano theme in C-sharp major (enharmonic to D-flat major) designed to resemble a music box, accompanied by other instruments playing a counterpoint melody as well as a wordless chorus. (Most modern piano music sheets have the song in the key of C.)

Mills wrote and recorded "Music Box Dancer" in 1974, but it did not become a single until 1978.[1] By Christmas of that year, it was in the top ten of many European and Asian pop music charts. Released as a single in the United States in January 1979,[2] it reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on the week ending May 5,[3] and also reached #3 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart and #47 on the Canadian pop chart. The single also did well in Australia, reaching #14 on the Australian Singles Chart (Kent Music Report).[4]

A few notes are missing in the third repeated introduction to the main melody, which could not be corrected, as Mills did not have the funds to record another take.


In 1974 Mills released an album that featured "Music Box Dancer", but it was not initially a hit. When he re-signed with Polydor Records Canada in 1978, the label released a new song as a single, with "Music Box Dancer" on the B-side. The single was sent to easy-listening stations in Canada, and one copy was mistakenly sent to CFRA-AM, an Ottawa pop station. The program director played the A-side and could not figure out why it had been sent to his station, so he played the B-side to see if the record label had been mistakenly marked. He liked "Music Box Dancer" and added it to his station's playlist.

The song's success at CFRA was swift. "Music Box Dancer" premiered on CFRA's top 30 chart on May 5, 1978;[5] by June 30, it was the #1 song on the station's playlist.[6] "Music Box Dancer" also began picking up play on other Canadian stations around this time, becoming a nationwide hit. Mills's album went gold in Canada, which, after several months, prompted Polydor in the US to release the album and single with the B-side "The Poet and I".

The million-selling Gold-certified single reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1979 as well as #4 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart, while the album reached #21 on the Billboard Top Album chart and also went gold. Polydor awarded a gold record to TV station WNGE for breaking the single in the U.S.

It was Mills's only U.S. Top 40 pop hit; the follow-up, another piano instrumental titled "Peter Piper", peaked at #48 on the Billboard Hot 100, although it was a popular Top 10 hit on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Mills managed one final Adult Contemporary chart entry, "Happy Song", which peaked at #41 at the beginning of 1981. Mills also released a version of Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool" with substantial airplay in Ontario during the 70's and 80's.

Chart performance[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

"Music Box Dancer" has been recorded by such pianists as Floyd Cramer, Richard Clayderman, Roger Williams and Eric Robertson, and by orchestral artists such as James Last and 101 Strings. Bandleader Ray Conniff added lyrics and titled the song on his album I Will Survive in 1979. Germany's Roberto Delgado recorded a calypso version, and an accordion version was released in Sweden. The band PePe produced a techno version. It was also recorded by Enormous Richard for the Pravda Records compilation 20 More Explosive Fantastic Rockin' Mega Smash Hit Explosions!. German singer Marion Maerz made a German vocal version of the song, and The Wiggles covered it on the video/album Racing to the Rainbow.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The tune was used for KCBS's half-hour series "2 on the Town" from 1979 till the early 1980s.
  • The tune is playing on the ice cream van heard in the background during part 1 of Kill Bill.
  • A segment of the song was used in The Simpsons episode "Bart Star", in a flashback to Homer's time as a high-school gymnast.[15]
  • The song is part of the movie Summerhood's soundtrack
  • A snippet of the song is played on piano by Dewey in the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Reese Joins the Army".
  • The song is played during a hotel dinner scene in AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, season 1, episode 7 ("Giant").
  • It was the theme of the late 1970's BBC Pro-Celebrity Golf series "Around With Alliss" (fronted by professional golfer Peter Alliss)
  • A version of the song is played over the closing credits of the 1998 Danish movie Festen (The Celebration).[16]


  1. ^ American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, March 10, 1979
  2. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  3. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  4. ^ a b Steffen Hung. "Forum - CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  5. ^ "CFRA 580 Ottawa Survey 05/05/78". 2015-05-05. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  6. ^ "CFRA 580 Ottawa Survey 06/30/78". 2015-06-30. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  7. ^ a b Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  8. ^ "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". 1979-04-29. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  9. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  10. ^ "Adult Contemporary Music Chart". Billboard. 1979-03-31. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  11. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, April 21, 1979
  12. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1979 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". 1979-12-31. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  13. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1979/Top 100 Songs of 1979". Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  14. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1979
  15. ^ Music Featured on the Simpsons Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine.. The Simpsons Archive
  16. ^ "The Celebration [1998, pt. 2]". Dailymotion. p. 40:00. Retrieved 2014-10-20.

External links[edit]