This past Christmas marked 40 years since Mill Valley’s Rita Abrams penned “Mill Valley,” her classic hit song about the town. In honor of the anniversary, the Herald recently asked Abrams a few questions about the song and its legacy.
Mill Valley Herald: You recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of your song about Mill Valley. For those who might not know, can you describe how the song came to be?
Rita Abrams: I’d been teaching kindergarten in Mill Valley for a year, and as I walked through my lovely little town on that balmy Christmas Day, 1969, it struck me that it needed to have a song about it.
MVH: Why did you write this song — what were you trying to capture?
RA: Mill Valley inspired me, and I wanted to capture not only the aesthetic beauty of it, but the warm feeling and friendly spirit of the place. I also wanted to keep it simple enough that my kindergartners could sing it easily.
MVH: How would you describe the response to the song over the years?
RA: Absolutely amazing! I never would have dreamed people would remember it this long. And the dramatic nature of some of the fan letters, like the war veterans who felt that hearing it in their heads while in the trenches saved their lives. I can’t begin to tell you how moving some of the letters are. And they keep on coming. And surprisingly enough, the vast majority are from men!
MVH: Do you still live in Mill Valley?
RA: As the song says: “How could I leave Mill Valley?”
MVH: You’re working on a book about the song. Tell us what the book will be about.
RA: The book tells the story of how it all happened, with scrapbook entries like the telegram from Rolling Stone telling me to call Annie Leibovitz for a photo session, and articles from around the world. Also, a DVD with the album on it, and film of that song and others on the album. And pictures and stories of the former third-graders, now 48-year-olds, who sang the song and album. I’ve been in touch with many of them. And lots of fascinating fan letters. It ends with what I’ve been doing since.
MVH: What are you doing to mark the anniversary?
RA: I went to the plaza Christmas Day with my daughter and friends, hung out on the bench where I wrote the song. (Of course the plaza wasn’t there in 1969 — only the bus depot.) It was a very sweet and nostalgic day.
MVH: Where can people still hear the song?
RA: They can look up “Mill Valley Song” on YouTube to see the film, made by a young Francis Ford Coppola.