Miles Dewey Davis III is a renowned American musician and composer who was born on 26, 1926 at Alton, Illinois. He died September 28, 1991. He is remembered for his contribution towards the development of Jazz music. He was the son to Doctor Davis, who is credited to have nurtured the talent in his son of playing the guitar. His mother was Cleota Mae (Cook, 2007). This paper analyzes the life of Miles Dewey Davis III.
His parents realized their son’s talent at the age of 13 where the father bought him a trumpet and enrolled him to music classes conducted by Elwood Buchanan.
At the age of 16, Miles was playing as a professional musician whenever he was out of school. During his final year at high School he was so refined that he was playing as a reliable member of Eddie Randle’s band, the Blue Devils. At the same time Tiny Bradshaw was strongly persuading him to join their band but his mother insisted that he had to finish his secondary school education before joining the band.
In 1944, after his high school education, he traveled to New York where he was to pursue his dream without the influence of his parents; however he had gone to the state to study music at Juilliard School of Music. In the midst of his studies he started playing at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s night clubs. He did not finish his studies at Juilliard but dropped saying that the school offered a lot of classical European and “white” repertoire. He started playing in clubs as a freelance singer (Ward and Burns, 2000).
In 1945, with Herbie Fields’s group, Miles entered into studio to record as a side man. For the next three years, he was looking for a good collaboration to start recording as a leader, however this was hard to come by. He decided to go it alone in 1948 (Cook & Brian, n.d).
This is seen as the period that saw the birth of cool Jazz. In 1948, Davis made friends with Gil Evans, an established singer of the time who housed a lot of young singers in his apartment. This gave Davis a chance to interact with young and old singers of the time. Evans was the founder of Claude Thornhill orchestra where he tried incorporating a new style of music.
In the time, a total number of ten people were involved in the move. Davis got interested in the new development that he was made a leader. Using the nonet, they performed in different places across New York and were applauded for quality. However, the group did not last past 1949, where there was a change of personalities. The level the project had reached was comfortable to Davis and could not leave it at the point so he held on to the new system.
Before their break up, they recorded with Capitol Records a number of songs which were released in 1956 and named as Birth of the Cool. It later came to be known as cool jazz. After the break of the nonet, Davis and Evans remained good friends; they had similar mission and worked hard to benefit from it.
Davis traveled to Europe and found a complete new development where African music had dominated the continent. The music was more appreciated than any other music. He got into a relationship with Juliette Greco (French singer and actress). When he went back to New York, Miles suffered depression partly as result of leaving his love in France and had no friends (his friends were left in Europe); he resorted to taking drugs.
He got addicted to heroin and witnessed his friend die of the drug. His efforts to stop taking the drugs hit a hard rock until he decided to return to his father in St. Louis where he locked himself in a room. He played only in Detroit and vowed not to return to New York.
1955 – 58
After recovery from drugs, Davis decided to go back to New York and try his luck there. He attended Newport Jazz Festival where he played as a solo artist. He recruited young musicians and formed what came to be called “first great quintet”.
1960’s to 1991
This was the time that electric music had started to develop but he held to his style. He got married to a model and song writer Betty Mabry; however he divorced her after a year.
This time he was still using cocaine but his music had already gotten in the system of Americans and Europeans. He made travels to Colombia, France, and United Kingdom among other European countries where his style of music was applauded. In 1979, he rekindled his love with actress Cicely Tyson who worked tirelessly to see him out of the drug menace. She was successful.
After regaining health and form he continued doing what he liked most with a young band which saw him play his last song in Columbia called You’re under Arrest. He also was able to make a strong band which had personnel like Mino Cinelu and guitarist John Scofield, who had adopted his kind of music.
On the morning of September 28, 1991, he died in hospital after suffering stroke, pneumonia, and respiratory problems; this was in Santa Monica, California. His body was rested in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx; he was 65 years and married to Cicely Tyson (Mandel, 2007).
Davis is known as one of the most influential musician in history. He nurtured a number of talents and gave rise to Jazz music. The album Kind of Blue is unsurpassed in terms of sales. Though his music has aspects of African American, he is seen as one who was innovative and influenced people to sing. He has led to development of singers like, The Gaslight Anthem.
During his career, he was awarded a number of awards by different organizations for his contributions. Some of the awards that he got include Down Beat in 1955, 1957, and 1961, Grammy Award, 1960, 1970, and 1982, among others. Even after his death he was offered Hollywood’s Rock walk in 2006 (Fadoir, 2009).
Miles Dewey Davis III is a renown American musician and composer who was born on 26, 1926 and died on September 28, 1991. He is remembered for his contribution in Jazz music development. His music still remains as world’s best selling music. Though his life was influenced by Heroin addiction, his creativity led to the development of Jazz music.
Cook, R. (2007). It’s About That Time: Miles Davis On and Off Record. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cook, R. and Brian, M. (n.d). Entry “Miles Davis” in Penguin Guide to Jazz. New York: Penguin.
Fadoir, N. (2009). Jazz and Hip Hop: You Know, for Kids. Michigan: Michigan State University.
Mandel, H. (2007). Miles, Ornette, Cecil: Jazz Beyond Jazz. New York: Routledge.
Ward, G.C., and Burns, K. (2000). Jazz: a history of America’s music. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.