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Miles Davis, Why Didn't He Smile, and When Did He?

Miles Davis, born in 1926, was one of the most important musicians and composers of the 20th century. He was involved in numerous jazz developments, including bebop, cool jazz, and electronic jazz, among others, and continued to innovate with his music up until his death in 1991 at the age of 65. Miles Smiles is the name of an album that Miles Davis put out in 1966, and sure enough, he's smiling on the cover. However, as you can see in the following pictures, smiling was not something that Miles Davis was often seen doing.         

 

Miles Davis album cover for Miles Smiles recordingportrait of Miles Davis, jazz musician trumpet player Miles Davis, jazz legend photograph of Miles Davis, jazz composer
portrait of Miles Davis, jazz musician trumpet player Miles Davis, jazz legend photograph of Miles Davis, jazz composer
Why didn't Miles smile? He was born into a relatively affluent family, with his father making a decent living as a dentist, so it would seem that he would have had a somewhat comfortable childhood. Miles began playing trumpet at age 13, and by the age of 16 was already so talented that he was playing professionally in a band. You'd think a teenager getting paid to play music would be pretty happy about that, and might smile now and then. Let's look at a few more pictures of Miles and see if we can pick up any smiles...
portrait of Miles Davis, jazz musician trumpet player Miles Davis, jazz legend photograph of Miles Davis, jazz composer portrait of Miles Davis, jazz musician trumpet player Miles Davis, jazz legend
Miles Davis had the nickname "The Prince of Darkness." Was it because of his mood? Was his music dark and eerie? Does this nickname seem to fit based on these pictures? One suggestion for Miles Davis's dark mood has been that he struggled with the combination of having a rise to fame and success coinciding with a time of racial inequality in America. It was during the 1940's, 50's and 60's, and despite being a major celebrity and world famous musician, he was at the receiving end of countless racial insults and mistreatment, including being beaten by police during a confrontation in the late 1950's. But Miles Davis was a complicated man, and there's no simple way to explain his life, certainly not on a single web page ... let's take a look at a video from Miles Davis's fusion period, and let the music do the talking ...


Salvador Dali at Artsology Artsology offers free online games about the arts, and delivers investigations into topics in the visual arts, music, and literature. Artsology is a good resource for fun learning about the arts for people of all ages and is enjoyed by students, homeschoolers, and adults. Follow us on Twitter or become a fan of our Facebook page.Miles Davis at Artsology

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