- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2010

HBO is offering lovers of jazz and history a glimpse at one of America’s oldest black neighborhoods on Sunday night when its series “Treme” debuts. The show is set in New Orleans, the birthplace of the most purely American musical genre, and promises to be another discerning drama at the hands of the two Davids - D.C. natives David Simon and David Mills.

Mr. Mills and Mr. Simon developed characters, story lines and dialogue for such gritty, award-winning and critically acclaimed TV shows as “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Corner” and “The Wire.” Taking viewers inside New Orleans, the city that parties hard and never disappoints, as they did Baltimore in those other projects can’t have been easy in the era after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which in 2005 unleashed a wrath from which the Big Easy has yet to fully recover.

But New Orleans’ musical roots and human drama are an altogether different challenge.

Critics say one of the brightest spots in “Treme” is the undeniable lead role that music plays - “It is almost impossible not to love both the music and the musicians,” one said.

For that, I tip my locks to Mr. Mills.

David loved music and was especially beholden to funk, which is rooted in jazz and blues and was prolific during the 1960s and ‘70s via such groups and artists as Parliament, the Bar-Kays, and Motown’s Funk Brothers, as well as James Brown, Frank Zappa and the outrageous George Clinton.

A voracious reader, David was a colleague here at The Washington Times. His interviews with high-profile artists are legendary. One, which appeared in The Times in 1989, led to considerable press for the notorious rap group Public Enemy, whose so-called Minister of Information, Professor Griff, said, “Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world.” And remember presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s “Sistah Souljah moment”? That stemmed from one of David’s interviews at The Washington Post.

A University of Maryland graduate, David was no braggart. He was a smart and humble man whose devotion to family was as undeniable as his blessed storytelling talents. He didn’t have a nasty bone in his body, and this, despite his enormous success and La-La Land connections, kept his ego in check.

Nobody was as insightful about the fork in the road of American culture, American politics and humanity as David Mills.

I fell in love all over again with his intellect and talents while watching “The Wire” and “The Corner,” both of which exposed America’s urban underbelly of drugs, lousy schools and big-city political schemes.

I hope David’s faithfulness to written and spoken words will shine as bright in “Treme” as his delightful and gentle spirit.

Sadly, David died in action March 30 doing what he loved.

Actor Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native who worked with the two Davids on several projects, including playing a cigar-chewing, beer-swilling homicide detective on “The Wire,” told reporters that David Mills collapsed during filming and died on the “Treme” set. The cause: a brain aneurysm.

David, a cancer survivor, was only 48 years old.

A memorial service was held this week by the cast and crew in New Orleans. His funeral will be held Monday at the University of Maryland Chapel in College Park, where the two Davids met as students working on the Diamondback newspaper.

The old cliche about a deceased artist’s work outliving the person applies to David Mills, whose insights and reflections will forever be accessible on the Web, in libraries and on film.

Thank you, David Mills.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.