However, another song by the Steve Miller Band, “Serenade” – also from the mid-1970s – deserves some special attention since it is sometimes overlooked or overshadowed by the other hits.
“Serenade” was recorded in 1975 at the CBS studios on San Francisco and appears as the fourth track on the album Fly Like an Eagle, an album released in May 1976 by Capitol Records in North America and by Mercury Records in Europe. The principal musicians on the album include: Steve Miller on vocals, guitar, and keyboards; Lonnie Turner on bass guitar; and Gary Mallaber on drums and percussion.
Fly Like an Eagle was the group’s ninth studio album, and it did well on the charts – reaching the Top 5 in U.S. and Canada, and the Top 20 in the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. The album would eventually sell four million copies. As of 2012, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Fly Like an Eagle at No. 445 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album also spawned three singles – the title track, “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Money and Run,” and “Rock’n Me.” The song “Serenade,” however, doesn’t always get the accolades it deserves, which Rolling Stone called, in one 2014 article, a “should be classic.”
Did you see the lights
Wake up, wake up
Whoa, whoa …
Did you feel the wind
Wake up, wake up
The sun comes up
Whoa, whoa, whoa…
In the U.K. “Serenade” came out as a single in 1976 on the B side of “Rock’n Me,” as shown above, but apparently did not appear elsewhere in the single format. Still, the song is “classic Steve Miller” in sound and appeal, and among Steve Miller fans, it has a loyal following.
Some titles for this song have it labeled, “Serenade (From the Stars),” as that line is used in the opening stanza. Musically, the song opens with a short drum rift followed by round of rising acoustic guitar. The vocals arrive shortly thereafter in a rolling, easy-listening rhythm.
The song’s message appears to be both “cosmic and local,” befitting earlier Steve Miller-esque “traveling-in-space” and “space-cowboy” type themes. At least one YouTube treatment for this song has an accompanying series of space photographs. But the song is also about the home planet and its occupants, among the space travelers.
“Serenade” – Steve Miller Band
The verse seems to be a calling to pay attention to the everyday world as well as the larger cosmic universe. It suggests a homage to beauty, nature and cosmic proportion, from which we can draw inspiration. While we may be “lost in space” – and of course, there is no control over this rock we’re on in any case – the music seems to be saying there is no need for despair. “The time is our own” – i.e., it’s what we make of it.
There is humility here, and appreciation too. “Did you feel the wind as it blew all around you?” — reminding us of those simple, life-sustaining things we take for granted. But the “wind” in this case, might also have another meaning or context, alluding to those around us, as the verse asks: “Did you feel the love that was in the air?”
And again, toward the end of the song, comes the admonition: “Wake up, wake up,” urging a getting-on-with-things, and perhaps taking advantage of one’s everyday life, becoming engaged, etc., as “the time is our own.”
So if this is a “serenade from the stars,” it offers some reassurance and reaffirmation. This “rock” is a worthy place after all, but some personal effort is required. Don’t give up, the lyrics seem to suggest: “The sun comes up / And it shines all around you/ You’re lost is space / And the earth is your own ” — So go for it; make it worthwhile.
The lyrics of this song – presuming that Steve Miller had a prominent hand in crafting them – may derive from a time in Miller’s life after he had a bit of hardship and gained new perspective, although co-writer Chris McCarty was also involved with this song.Early success for the Steve Miller Band had come in October 1968 with the album Sailor which had risen to No. 24 on the Billboard album charts, and included the single “Living in the USA”. A series of other albums and songs followed, such as “Space Cowboy” and “Brave New World,” which also became popular on FM radio. A fallow period then ensued with a couple of lackluster albums.
Then came a 1971 auto accident in which Miller broke his neck and later developed hepatitis. That put him out of action for a time in 1972 and 1973. During his recuperation he set about reinventing himself and his band, with some focus on song writing, producing 1973’s The Joker, a million-seller with its title track also a No.1 single.
Following The Joker, Miller took three years off, purchased some land and a hilltop home in Marin County, California, adding his own recording studio there. That’s when he went to work on songs for the albums Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams, the period during which “Serenade” was written as well.“Serenade” is found on The Steve Miller Band: Greatest Hits 1974-78, shown above. That album, released in 1978, became one of the best-selling releases of all-time, selling millions of copies per year through the end of the century. In September 2003, Capitol Records issued the Young Hearts album, featuring “The Complete Greatest Hits” of the Steve Miller Band, including “Serenade.”
Over more than 45 years, with a varying roster of musicians, the Steve Miller Band has released 18 studio albums, three live albums, seven compilation albums, and at least 29 singles. To date, the group has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Their last studio album, Let Your Hair Down was released in April 2011, and The Joker (Live) was released in May 2014 on the Sailor label. As of this writing, the Steve Miller Band continues to perform.
Additional stories at this website on music can be found at the Annals of Music category page. For story choices in the 1970s or 1980s decades, follow those links, or scroll to the “Period Archive” in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle
Date Posted: 29 August 2014
Last Update: 2 June 2016
Comments to: email@example.com
Jack Doyle, “Serenade: Steve Miller, 1975-1978,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 29, 2014.
Sources, Links & Additional Information“Steve Miller Band,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, New York: Rolling Stone Press, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 651-652.
“Steve Miller Band,” Wikipedia.org.
Steve Miller Band — Serenade [ Official Live Video ] HD,” YouTube.com.
“Serenade From The Stars – Steve Miller Band,” YouTube.com.
“Steve Miller Band Discography,” Wikipedia.org.
“40 Albums Baby Boomers Loved That Millennials Don’t Know; These LPs Were Beloved by Millions, But Are Younger Generations Finding Them?,” Rolling Stone, May 14, 2014.
Rahul Kulhalli, “Review Of: Steve Miller Band – Serenade (From The Stars),” AudiophileParadise, December 2, 2012.
“Fly Like an Eagle,” Wikipedia.org.