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Universally acclaimed as a musical genius, Miles Davis was one of the most important and influential musicians in the world. Here, Miles speaks out about his extraordinary life. Miles: The Autobiography, like Miles himself, holds nothing back. For the first time Miles talks about his five-year silence. He speaks frankly and openly about his drug problem and how he overcame it. He condemns the racism he encountered in the music business and in American society generally. And he discusses the women in his life. But above all, Miles talks about music and musicians, including the legends he has played with over the years: Bird, Dizzy, Monk, Trane, Mingus, and many others. The man who gave us some of the most exciting music of the twentieth century here gives us a compelling and fascinating autobiography.
It's hard to give a rating to this book. It's a very frank and open and detailed account of Davis's life. It's also troubling and frustrating. Taken on its own terms, it absolutely succeeds in what it sets out to do. Whether you come out at the end believing that Davis is a suitable subject for a biography is another story. One thing is for sure, this book is never boring.
Actually, compared with a lot of the celebrity memoirs coming out these days, there's no question Miles deserves his say. It's just distressing to see so little evidence of personal growth over the course of his lifetime.
The person who comes across in this book is someone who only ever cared about music, over and above family, friends, relationships, fans, or anything else in this world. If you were looking to find some revelation about why Miles behaved the way he did in front of an audience, it appears that he really didn't care about the audience. He was there to play, and if you were there to listen that was fine, but he wasn't there to entertain you.
As for his contradictions, sometimes I wonder if his ghostwriter (Quincey Troupe) juxtaposed them on purpose or not. Sometimes he says that music is always music, and other times he says that old music is dead. Sometimes he says that women have to be interesting, but the way he describes them suggests the opposite. Sometimes he says that he never cared about what color someone was, but most of the time he expresses a vehement hatred of white people. I have no doubt that he encountered a good deal of racism in his life, but he also seems to have gone out of his way to look for signs of it even when people were simply trying to reach out to him. Again, I have to wonder if Quincey Troupe consciously constructed those episodes to convey that.
I have to say that regardless of how Miles himself comes across, the first half of the book detailing the jazz scene in New York City in the 40s and 50s is absolutely fascinating. This is a first-person account by someone who was there and in the middle of it and connected to everyone who was anyone.
Quincey Troupe did an incredible job of putting this narrative together and making it sound like a monologue Miles could have delivered. Be forewarned that Miles uses a lot of profanity. Dion Graham does a creditable job of imitating Miles's breathy, raspy voice. There were times that I forgot it was not Miles actually speaking this book. However, this also makes it a difficult read if you're in the car or anywhere else with a lot of ambient noise.
51 of 52 people found this review helpful
"Kind of Blue" is my favorite album and has been for many years. I love Miles Davis as a musician and especially admired how he constantly reinvented himself. That's why I wanted to read this book. I was blown away. It was like having a long conversation with the man.
Besides his life (family, school, friends, etc.) this book is great as a history of jazz - the many amazing musicians he played with, how the albums came together.
Davis is one of the most blunt, no-nonsense,and does not suffer fools MF you'll ever have the pleasure to read. If you are offended by the F word - stay far away from this. Besides learning about his life and music, Miles tells in detail about drugs and sex - his own and others around him. This, and also his thoughts about racism made parts of the book very uncomfortable to listen to.
At his core. for Miles it was all about the music, but also pushing to make sure blacks got credit for what they did, and not have it taken away by whites. The man made a difference and left his mark.
Quincy Troupe did an amazing job of capturing Miles' voice in helping write the book, and Dion Graham caught Miles' throaty voice perfectly. If you love jazz, or want to hear about a unique life - read/listen to this book.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
Miles wrote a brutally honest autobiography. You see the man's faults, as well as the tremendous drive that made him one of the most renowned Jazz greats of the 20th century. The book answers some of the questions that made Miles such an enigma, such as: why did he famously turn his back on audiences on stage? And why was he known for having a sometimes contentious personality?
Miles was very sensitive to patronizing, and racist comments by whites, partially because he came up at a time when blacks were excluded from some night clubs and hotels that he traveled to, and because he grew up in East St. Louis which had a terrible race riot in the early 20th Century, where many blacks were killed.
He tells of an incident where he was at the white house receiving an award when he took offense at a patronizing racial comment from one of the guests. "I bet your Mammy would be proud of you." After he told the lady off, the insulted woman asked, "what did you do to deserve this presidential award?" "I changed the music 6 or 7 times," Miles said. And he did, from his groundbreaking Sketches Of Spain in the fifties, which is unlike any other jazz album, to his rock fusion in the 70's, 80's and 90's.
Miles was accused by some of pandering to commercialism when he combined his jazz with rock. I saw Miles shortly before he died, when he did a free concert at Penn's Landing in Philly. I saw a little baby dancing, and the music was just that natural and spontaneous, which was what Miles said about it. He also said that the young people get addicted to the electronic sound, and then it becomes hard to listen to acoustic music. - and I find this true with my own listening. Miles just had that inherent knowledge about music - which made him the legend he was. He also sacrificed everything for his music.
If you're interested in jazz, or what it was like being a jazz celebrity in the 20th Century you'll like this book.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
It's length. It was long. If I didn't know better, I'd have said Miles was reading it.
What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)
Good insight by the author in explaining the position of the book being written with the constant expletives. The way Miles spoke. It did seem extreme and not a book I could recommend to a lot of audiences.
What does Dion Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
At this length, I'd have never picked up the book. That's why i choose Audible.
What else would you have wanted to know about Miles Davis’s life?
Perhaps a little more of the inspiration behind specific albums and songs.
Any additional comments?
Disappointed that he grew up in the time and place he did that left him feeling the way he did about being profiled as he implied and his impression/generalization of many of us without oppressive instincts. All this North of the Mason/Dixon line.<br/>
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
This would be a wonderful fiction novel if it were not a true story. That it is a true story and we get to hear and experience a large portion of American history in its most bold, iconic and pure sense is awe inspiring.. This is a great American story about one of the most important cultural icons.
The narration is superb and gives us the feel of Davis' voice. I'm so very glad that the book wasn't watered down by editing out the swear words or the true stories of drugs, music, and life at the pinnacle of cultural inventiveness.
This is a must read for any musician and for history buffs and those interested in true American culture and identity.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
What part of the story should I rate? The fascinating narrative of American jazz by one of its masters? That aspect of the book is amazing. The way Davis talks about music is spell-binding. The complicated narrative of a complicated man? That one is harder. The best thing about the portrait of Miles Davis in his autobiography is a window onto how neither black nor white--in the ethical, not racial sense--each of us is. Davis talks lovingly and with tremendous generosity of spirit about other musicians and indeed about lots of people in his life; the same man seems blind to his own stunning shortcomings (or is revising them for his audience). Some parts are really hard to listen to: here is a man who abuses women, is a drug addict and alcoholic AND is complaining that his sons are a disappointment. In print. He calls them failures. It is just stunning in the raw shock of his self-blindness. I do think, however, this is a really worthwhile listen (with a fabulous narrator). I'm glad I've listened to it but I must say there is more about Miles Davis here than I really wanted to know. He was a musical genius and a very very flawed man.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Miles to be better than the print version?
It makes the experience more intimate. For this first person narrative, Dion Graham has become Miles Davis so that the listener is fully convinced that he/she is listening to Miles tell his own story.
Any additional comments?
Miles Davis' honesty, the historical perspective in the book, the behind the scenes insights into the jazz scene and its players, all fascinating -- and Dion Graham's brilliant performance -- makes this one of my all time most compelling listens.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
You have to go into this book with an open mind. If you like jazz, then you will enjoy this book. You have to remember that Miles Davis grew up in a totally different time and his views of the world are completely justified. I found myself, on occasion, feeling a little put off by his somewhat one sided views. Then I reminded myself how different times were back then and put in the same situations would probably have similar views. If you can get past all that, you will find this book truly interesting as it goes into the deep deep history of jazz, along with side stories of Coletrain, Monk, Armstrong and all the other masters of jazz.
This is a real history lesson in the music and the times.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Not a performance -- a reincarnation. Dion Graham is brilliant! I was so wrapped up in the story, I felt like I was sitting down with Miles himself.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Superior on multiple levels: great story and absolutely the best narration performance I have ever heard--by a very wide margin! I learned a lot about jazz and US social history in this phenomenal audiobook.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful