The Life & Tribulations of Miles Davis - Em & Ahr

The Life & Tribulations of Miles Davis

The Life & Tribulations of Miles Davis - How He Influenced Jazz History

Miles Davis

Miles Davis is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential figures in jazz history. His musical career spanned over five decades, during which he continually evolved and experimented with his sound. He was also a trailblazer in the fight for civil rights and a figurehead of the counterculture movement of the 1960s. This article will delve into the life, tribulations, and contributions of Miles Davis.

Davis was born on May 26, 1926, in Alton, Illinois, but he grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. His father was a successful oral surgeon, and his mother was a talented musician. Davis was exposed to music from an early age and began playing the trumpet when he was 13 years old. Despite the relative wealth of his family, Davis still faced racial discrimination and segregation in his hometown. He was denied entry to segregated music venues and witnessed a Ku Klux Klan rally near his home. This experience would shape his views and influence his music and activism later in life.

Miles Davis Portrait Painting

After dropping out of the Juilliard School in New York City, Davis began performing with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He quickly established himself as a virtuosic player and began leading his own bands, experimenting with various styles, including cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and fusion.

One of Davis's most significant contributions to jazz was the introduction of modal jazz. His landmark album, "Kind of Blue," which was released in 1959, is often cited as one of the most influential albums in jazz history. It features an all-star lineup of musicians, including John Coltrane and Bill Evans, and is notable for its use of modal jazz. Davis continued to innovate and experiment throughout his career, incorporating rock and funk elements into his music and collaborating with artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone.

Despite his success and critical acclaim, Davis faced numerous personal and professional struggles throughout his life. He struggled with drug addiction, which affected his health and led to frequent hospitalizations. He also had a volatile temper and was known to lash out at his band members and other musicians. In 1959, during a performance at the Birdland nightclub in New York City, he was attacked by police officers after he intervened in a dispute between a white police officer and a black club-goer. He suffered a broken collarbone and was arrested, which sparked outrage and led to protests.


Davis's dedication to his music never wavered, and he continued to perform and record until his death in 1991. His influence on jazz and popular music is immeasurable. He inspired countless musicians, including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Wynton Marsalis, who went on to become jazz legends in their own right. He also influenced artists in other genres, such as Prince, who often cited Davis as a major inspiration.

In addition to his musical contributions, Davis played a significant role in the civil rights movement. He spoke out against racial injustice and discrimination and used his platform to advocate for equality. He was arrested several times for protesting and continued to use his music to address social and political issues.

In conclusion, Miles Davis was a musical genius and a pioneer who constantly pushed the boundaries of jazz and popular music. His contributions to music, as well as his activism, continue to influence and inspire generations of musicians and listeners. His life was marked by creativity, innovation, and personal and professional struggles, but his legacy remains as one of the most iconic and influential figures in music history.


BONUS: Tips on how to become a better trumpeter

1. Practice every day to build muscle memory

2. Listen to trumpet players who are better than you and learn from their technique & try to imitate it - be inspired!

3. Get a good mouthpiece that fits your teeth - it will make playing easier

4. Practice with other trumpeters, but don't stop practicing on your own!

5. Take lessons from an experienced teacher if possible - and learn, learn, learn!

6. Find a mentor or friend who is also learning how to play the trumpet so you can practice together and motivate each other


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