The Milner family moved frequently following World War II, the result being that Dan grew up in far-flung localities including Birmingham, Ballybunion, Toronto and Brooklyn. Both Dan's parents were musical; his mother (Nora Milner nee Cremin of Brosna, Co. Kerry) being a keen set dancer, and his father (William Milner of Birmingham, England), a fine singer.
William Milner was raised by his mother and maternal grandfather, Patrick McKay of Ennis, County Clare from whom he learned his first traditional songs. Dan picked up some of that repertoire, a musical melange including “Skibbereen,” “The Wild Rover” and traditional ballads like “Barbara Allen” as well as Fenian and Republican pieces like “McCaffery” and “Kevin Barry.” Along with his elder brother, Liam, Dan learned these plus Thomas Moore songs and Irish-American lyrics from Tin Pan Alley. He writes, "Though they came from different places and time periods, I link them together as Irish national songs in the sense that, individual taste aside, Irish people would agree they all are part of the country’s national heritage and consciousness".
Milner has continued to lengthen his song list from the early 1960s through the present decade, learning Irish "big" ballads; and maritime, Canadian and Irish-American songs from all manner of sources including field recordings, original and secondary printed matter, and from many other singers. In New York City, he was fortunate to become well acquainted with two venerated older Irish songsters: Joe Heaney of Carna, Co. Galway and the celebrated Traveler, Margaret Barry of Cork City. Other early influences include Ewan MacColl, Dominic Behan and The Clancy Brothers.
He was a founding member of The Flying Cloud, who played at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1977 and recorded one LP for Adelphi Records the same year.
Dan Milner has recorded with musicians including Louis Killen, Mick Moloney, and 8 All-Ireland champions. Today, he sings solo, with his wife Bonnie Milner, and with Robbie O'Connell.
In 2009, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution, America's national museum, released "Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea," which features many of Irish America's foremost musicians and singers, including John Doyle, Joanie Madden, Susan McKeown, Mick Moloney, Brian Conway, Gabriel Donohue and Robbie O'Connell. Irish Music magazine called the recording " "A tour de force... impeccably researched folk music with a big Irish heart..." Dirty Linen magazine wrote, "Milner is a compelling storyteller in song... a powerful narrative singer" and Time Out New York called him "A folksinger's folksinger". Dan is also featured on Brian Conway's 2008 CD, "Consider the Source."
Dan is also a writer. Many of his reviews and feature magazine articles have been published by Irish Music (Ireland) and The Living Tradition (Scotland) magazines. In the USA, he has written for The Log of Mystic Seaport, New York Irish History, Seaport, The Journal of New York Folklore and Sing Out! Other credits include The Bonnie Bunch of Roses, a classic book of 150 Irish and British folk songs (Oak Publications, 1983), and three acclaimed CDs produced for Folk-Legacy Records. In 2011, the journal New York Irish History published his account of William Goulding, the first Irish permanent resident of the City of New York.
Milner teaches New York studies and geography at St. John's University. He has previously taught at New York University, Yeshiva University, New York's Irish Arts Center and the Augusta Heritage Center Irish Week at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia. He has appeared on the radio in Ireland (RTÉ), England (BBC), Scotland (Celtic Music Radio) and the USA (NPR).