|Miles Davis was one of the greatest visionaries and most important figures in jazz history. He was born in a well-to-do family in East St. Louis. He became a local phenom and toured locally with Billy Eckstine's band while he was in high school. He moved to New York under the guise of attending the Julliard School of Music. However, his real intentions were to hook up with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He quickly climbed up the ranks while learning from Bird and Diz and became the trumpet player for Charlie Parker's group for nearly 3 years. His first attempt at leading a group came in 1949 and was the first of many occurrences in which he would take jazz in a new direction. Along with arranger Gil Evans, he created a nonet (9 members) that used non-traditional instruments in a jazz setting, such as French horn and Tuba. He invented a more subtle, yet still challenging style that became known as "cool jazz." This style influenced a large group of musicians who played primarily on the west coast and further explored this style. The recordings of the nonet were packaged by Capitol records and released under the name The Birth of the Cool. The group featured Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, and Max Roach, among others. This was one of the first instances in which Miles demonstrated a recurring move that angered some: he brought in musicians regardless of race. He once said he'd give a guy with green skin and "polka-dotted breath" a job, as long as they could play sax as well as Lee Konitz. After spending 4 years fighting a heroin addiction, he conquered it, inspired by the discipline of the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.|
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, known popularly as Malcolm X (his Nation of Islam-issued name), and Sir Miles Dewey Davis III (whose honorific derives from his induction in 1988 into The Knights of Malta) share intriguingly similar biographical details. Born in the mid-western United States, in 1925 and 1926 respectively, these iconic incarnations of African-American masculinity came to maturity during the era of Euro-American-authored apartheid in the United States, yet attained cross-over and international prominence in their proper fields of theological-cum-political theorizing and jazz trumpet virtuosity and music theory innovation. They also authored celebrated, as-told-to autobiographies. In collaboration with Alex Haley, X narrated The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965). Davis drafted, with the assistance of Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography (1989). Though X was assassinated in 1965 and Davis died of a pneumonia-triggered stroke in 1991, they persist as phantasmal cultural presences through their books (including Davis's The Art of Miles Davis, a portfolio of his paintings) and their recordings (X's speeches and Davis's music). The Ballantine Books paperback edition of X's Autobiography achieved, in November 1992, its 33rd printing since 1973, while Davis's post-mortem popularity as a jazz artist seems poised to eclipse that of John Coltrane (1926-1967), the race pride emblem par excellence of the 1960s.  X and Davis dominate the popular cultures of their separate demesnes. Transfigured into demi-deities, they are omnipresent in mass media, in film (Spike Lee's X ), opera (Anthony and Thulani Davis's X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X ), documentaries, books, recordings, and clothing and associated tchotchkes. Even as X and Davis are reified into protean, Warhol-like pop idols, their representations also dramatize and reproduce a patriarchal black masculinity, an anarchic machismo. Worse, this rugged phallocentrism, which bell hooks blames for "much black-on-black violence," among other ills (Black 111), is furthered, perhaps, by the seductiveness of these figures for urban, African-American, male youth, from whose ranks they came and to whose concerns and styles they paid scrupulous fealty.  In fact, the steady appeal of these figures likely owes something to their efforts, during their careers, to address this alienated constituency.  Positioning themselves as archetypal black men, they became exemplary champions of the black male-delineated worlds of black religion and black music, spheres in which the masterful and the triumphant exude confidence, poise, purpose, style--in short, 'cool.' Their investments in codes of honour, in 'coolness,' offer a context for their cultural success, but also, arguably, useable notions for the construction of a re-energized and progressive African-American socio-political movement.  Paradoxically, too, their styles of honour yield means for subverting their sexism, while yet permitting their inscription into avant-garde politics and aesthetics. 
The full title of the order is The Knights of the Grand Cross in and for the Sovereign Military Hospitaler Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. See Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography (388).
|A look at many of the major personal and musical events from Miles’s final years|
Choose a timeline date:
1979 :: 1980 :: 1981 :: 1982 :: 1983 :: 1984 :: 1985:: 1986 :: 1987 :: 1988 :: 1989 :: 1990 :: 1991
November 13: Miles is made a Knight of Malta by the Order of St. John.
|About the Author|
Miles Davis is forever the innovator, not only as a musician, but in other realms. His artistic impressions in oil paintings and sketches have drawn critical acclaim and have been shown in galleries around the world. "Sir" Miles Davis was inducted into the Knights of Malta in November 1988. In November 1984, he received the Sonning Music Award for lifetime achievement in music, and in March 1990, his twenty-fourth Grammy Award, this time for lifetime achievement in music.
|Sir Miles Davis was inducted into the Knights of Malta in November 1988 and won 24 Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement in March1990. He was a Renaissance man for the ages who passed away on September 28, 1991.|
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