Miles Davis (1926-1991) “The Prince of Darkness”

By: Michelle Inherst

Miles Dewey Davis III, the Evil Genius of Jazz, was born in May 25, 1926 in the small town of Alton, Illinois.

The Master Magician was raised in a comfortable, middle class family. Davis’ mother, Cleota Mae Henry Davis, was a music teacher and his father, Miles Dewey Davis Jr., was a successful dental surgeon who held three college degrees. Although both Davis’ parents supported and encouraged their son’s interest in music, it was his father who eventually bought Miles his first trumpet.

     Davis was an all around good student in school, doing well in math and music being his strongest subject of interest. During his childhood, Miles was known as “Little Davis” and in adulthood, he became known by other nicknames including; the Man with the Horn and the Picasso of Jazz. Davis took trumpet lessons in grade school from a patient of his fathers’ and after high school; he went on to study music at Julliard for a brief time. By the end of his career that spanned more than fifty years, Davis had won a total of eight Grammy’s.

     Davis is accredited with being one of the ‘last major innovators of jazz’ and a ‘pioneer in the fusion of rock and jazz music’.  He regarded curiosity and racial prejudice as his inspiration. Davis did experience some hardships that could have led to his drug and alcohol abuse.

His senior year in high school, Davis’ parents divorced. He had several relationships with women that usually ended in physical violence. He endured racist insults and police brutality. Davis was in a car accident in 1972 that left him with two broken ankles; collapsed on stage in Japan from a bleeding ulcer; and by 1975, had his second hip replacement.

     There was a brief time when Miles Davis was out of work. During this time, he became frustrated and depressed and began using heroin. Being caught up in the addiction, Davis eventually sold his trumpet for cash.

He soon returned to his family farm in Illinois, hoping to kick the heroin addiction. It was at this time; Davis looked to one of his heroes, Sugar Ray Robinson, as his inspiration to give up his drug habit. Eventually, Miles left for Michigan where he spent twelve days in a hotel room during his withdrawal period, finally kicking the heroin addiction for good.

Although, he beat his drug habit, Davis started abusing alcohol in the 1960’s.

At times, he could be difficult and frightening.

During concerts, he turned his back toward the audience as he played his trumpet. Offstage, he would sometimes swear at people hoping to talk to him.  Miles Davis was not always difficult. During his concerts, he enjoyed applause from his audiences but he enjoyed even more having a quiet, respectful audience; unlike some of his contemporaries like; Louis Armstrong.

 By 1975, Davis became discouraged and depressed. Over the next few years, Davis took time away from the limelight and made several comebacks. In September 1991, he was taken to St. John’s Hospital and Health Care in Santa Monica, California with pneumonia.

While in the hospital, he suffered a massive stroke and eventually fell into a coma. Davis never recovered from his coma and on September 28, 1991; Miles Davis died at the age of sixty- five.