If you were a teen or young adult in the ’90s, then you probably remember the 1996 Robert Miles track Children. An early house/trance song from his album Dreamland, it paved the way for future electronic music, and is considered a formative and iconic song in the genre.
Miles died Tuesday at the age of 47. His radio station, OpenLab, confirmed he died “after a courageous battle with Stage 4 metastatic cancer.”
The news broke after Miles’ longtime friend, fellow DJ and music producer Joe T. Vannelli, expressed his condolences.
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“The tragic news of the death of a very talented artist of our time makes me incredulous and upset,” said Vannelli. “I will miss the fights, brawls, criticism, judgments… but especially your talent in finding sounds and melodies unparalleled.”
Miles won the Brit Award for Best International Breakthrough Act in 1997.
“I remember [the] 1997 Brit Awards Ceremony very well,” he continued. “Robert Miles was the best international newcomer award. Miles was the only Italian artist winner in [Brit Award] history. Children is an instrumental and dance anthem; one of the most ever loved tracks. With Robert Miles a part of my life dies with him.”
Miles topped the charts in 12 countries with Children, including the No. 1 spot on the U.S. dance charts, and it is widely considered the greatest hit of his career. (You can listen to the track, below.)
Originally written in response to horrific images of child victims of the Balkan Wars in the former Yugoslavia, Children eventually took on a life of its own, becoming an anthem for clubgoers themselves: car accidents were increasing as dance clubs faced an influx of drugs, and people would leave the bar intoxicated and fatigued. With its soft beat and slower tempo, Children became the song of choice to close the night. (There is no evidence that the song led to fewer car accidents, but the thought is nice, and many DJs at the time did use the song to finish their sets.)
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Miles once described the reaction he received the first time he played the track: “I lifted my gaze and saw a sea of hands reaching up high and a smile stamped on every face,” he said to the BBC. “A girl approached me in tears. ‘What music is this?’ she asked me. I don’t think I shall ever forget that moment, when I realized that my feelings had been conveyed through my music. My dream turned into reality.”
After Children, Miles enjoyed some success with further music production. Over the course of his career, he released five albums, the last of which was 2011’s Thirteen.
Music personalities and producers from around the world thanked Miles for his contribution to the genre, including radio host Pete Tong, DJ Armin Van Buuren and other notables. (Interestingly, Tong brought the song to heightened fame in the U.K. after making it his “Essential Tune of the Week” for three weeks in a row in 1996.)
Sad to hear Robert Miles passing r.i.p thanks for the music ?#deconstruction#classichouse pic.twitter杭州桑拿/f7xsvLTBF6
— Pete Tong mbe (@petetong) May 10, 2017
Really in shock to hear the news of the passing of Robert Miles… R.I.P.
— Armin van Buuren (@arminvanbuuren) May 10, 2017
R.I.P Robert Miles. Very sad news! https://t.co/AU3knJDeDV
— Boy George (@BoyGeorge) May 10, 2017
RIP Robert Miles ☹️
— Adventure Club (@AdventureDub) May 10, 2017
Another legend is gone.
R.I.P. Robert Miles pic.twitter杭州桑拿/TYLylbFl7j
— Giuseppe Ottaviani (@GOttaviani) May 10, 2017
RIP dreamhouse legend Robert Miles, way too young! #Children
— Dj Adaro (@DjAdaro) May 10, 2017
— David Guetta (@davidguetta) May 10, 2017
#RIP Robert Miles. ‘Children’ was the first dance song I fell in love with in 1996. I will forever be grateful for your music, thank you.
— Chris Lake (@chrislake) May 10, 2017
#RIP Robert Miles. Thank you for the inspiration, direction & courage! https://t.co/v0k2r2Hufn
— Darude (@Darudevil) May 10, 2017
Miles — born Roberto Concina in Switzerland to Italian parents — died in the dance music capital of the world: Ibiza, Spain.
Miles had spent the last several years fine-tuning his experimental radio station, OpenLab, which he opened in 2012. Those who work at the station released a statement about the passing of their founder.
“Robert was more than just an artist, he was a pioneer, a creator, an inspiration, a son, a father, our friend,” they said. “Throughout [his illness] he was strong, determined, incredibly brave and did everything he could to fight this horrendous disease.”