Miles Davis Discusses Slavery, Race, and the Difference Between White and Black Musicians

by / June 11, 2014 video 14 Comments

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Miles Davis was a trumpet player and band leader who played an instrumental role in the development of jazz music.  He was born in Alton, Illinois in 1926 as Miles Dewey Davis III.  He started playing the trumpet at 13 years old when his dad introduced him to the instrument. Davis began playing professionally before he even graduated high school, and at 17, he began performing with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

In 1944, Davis moved to New York and enrolled in Juilliard, but he dropped out in 1945 to pursue his career full time.  His first recording was in 1946 with the Miles Davis Sextet.  Davis went on to develop his signature style and released a series of recordings.

During the 1950s, Davis became addicted to heroin.  He continued to perform although the quality of his music suffered.  He was able to overcome his addiction in 1954, and it was at that point that his performance of “Round Midnight” at the Newport Jazz Festival landed him a recording contract with Columbia Records.  John Coltrane, Paul chambers, and Red Gardland joined Davis to form a permanent band and the group released several albums during the 1950s.

Davis continued to perform and record as the group evolved and changed over the years.  In 1975, Davis’ career was put on hold due to him developing an addiction to alcohol and cocaine.  He met his future wife, Cicely Tyson, in 1979, and she helped him recover from his cocaine addiction.

Davis continued to remain at the helm of the evolution of jazz music.  Davis received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1990 but tragically died not long after on September 21, 1991 from respiratory failure related to pneumonia.  His contributions to jazz music have made him a legend.

The following video is an interview of Davis.  Check it out to hear what he has to say about what makes white and black musicians different from each other and whether or not slavery has an impact on a musician’s expression.

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