Universally acclaimed as a musical genius, Miles Davis was
one of the most influential musicians in the world. He
was also famous for not talking, or for talking only in barely audible,
cryptic, and ill-tempered riddles. But his silence only added
to the mystique created by his genius with a trumpet. Miles was
an embodiment of the arrogant, hedonistic, and immensely talented
jazzman; he was also one of the icons of twentieth-century
black life. His autobiography, written in energetic prose, is a brillliant
telling of a one-of-a-kind life lived furiously.
Miles was born in Illinois in 1926 but grew up in St. Louis,
where his father had a dental practice and where he first learned
to play trumpet in high school. Miles Dewey Davis III was named
after his father, who was named after his father. Miles's parents
(his mother was an organ teacher) were married in Arkansas.
"My mother was a beautiful woman. She had a whole lot of style,
with an East Indian, Carmen McRae look, and dark, nut-brown,
smooth skin. High cheekbones and Indian-like halr... I got my
looks from my mother and also my love of clothes and sense of
style... I got whatever artistic talent I have from her also."
Miles eventually became one of the premier jazz musicians of
all time. The subject of several biographies, Miles here speaks
frankly about himself and his extraordinary life: his drug problem,
the places he's been, the people in his life, as well as the racism he
encountered as a black man and as a musician. Never one to bite
his tongue, he fills the autobiography with candid statements on
everything from race to musicianship (and when he talks about
the two together, as when he states that white men cannot play
the guitar, look out). Quincy Troupe, a poet, journalist, and
teacher who won the 1980 American Book Award for poetry,
perfectly captures Miles's voice, imbuing the book with a crisp,
clear, and melodious narrative. Davis may not come across as the
most pleasant man on earth, but with his riveting anecdotes of
jazz life in the 1950s and 1960s and his outspoken opinions, he is
an undeniably fascinating character.
Ishmael Reed Superior jazz writing that ranks with that of the best practitioners of the art
Vanity Fair Scorching
San Francisco Chronicle This is not just any book. As with everything else he has done, Davis's work as writer is likely to raise controversy. The book could well be subtitled "Miles Tells All" for this volume is crammed with juicy gossip about most of the key figures in modern jazz.
Clive Davis President, Arista Records [Miles] was and is the master, and his book is must reading for any student or fan of music.
The Atlantic With Miles, Davis proves to be his own most perceptive critic.