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Features, National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day September 28 – Miles Davis

No Comments 29 September 2011

Just an American Legend here folks. Enjoy

Today’s DPD comes from Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald

Miami Herald, September 29, 1991, p. 1A
LEONARD PITTS Jr., Herald Pop Music Critic

He was not all that crazy about the word jazz. Nor did he like the word legend, especially when it was applied, as it often was, to him.

He hated the thought of being considered an entertainer, hated it so much that often, he would turn his back on his audience, point his instrument at the floor or simply leave the stage.

He was prickly, idiosyncratic, had a terrible temper and was quite unpredictable, his career a stylistic scavenger hunt that took him on a winding course through music’s back alleys and rural roads in search of treasure.

He was the greatest jazz trumpeter of his generation. He was Miles.

Miles Dewey Davis, 65, died Saturday morning at 10:46 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., of a combination of pneumonia, respiratory failure and stroke. It seems fitting that they had to gang up on him to bring him down. After all, Davis had battled cocaine and heroin addictions, hip joint problems, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, arthritis, throat polyps, a bleeding ulcer, and an auto accident in which he broke both ankles, and had managed to come back strong each time.

Perhaps because of what he had to come back to: his music. Davis played with a sweet lyricism that belied the turbulence of his life. His tone was intimate, insinuating. When he played, there was no one in the room but him and you, and he laced the air with tendrils of sound that wound themselves around you like a vine on a trellis.

Or maybe not. Because again, spontaneity — that ability to surprise, challenge and provoke — was his signature.

Davis was born in Alton, Ill., and moved to East St. Louis as an infant. He was the second of three children born to Cleota Henry Davis and Miles Davis II, a dentist. As a boy, Davis enjoyed sports usually winding up the smallest person on the team.

But he refused to be intimidated. The inability to back down landed him in street fights when local kids, picking on his small stature and dark skin, called him Buckwheat after the Our Gang character.

Davis refused to tolerate any racial disrespect. In later years, Miles would stir controversy time and again by angrily, bluntly excoriating white America for its racism. His rage was the result, perhaps, of growing up with a strict father who was, in the parlance of the times, a strong “race man” and an admirer of the pioneering black nationalist, Marcus Garvey. continue

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