Miles Davis is considered to be one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. He was there from the moment it became popular around World War II and even well into the 1990s. He even became one of the few musicians to ever be known by just his first name like Cher is today.
Miles Davis was born on May 25, 1926 to Miles Henry Davis, a dentist, and his wife Cleota. At 13, his father arranged lessons for him and gave him a trumpet. By 16, he was a member of the music society and was working professionally as a musician. However, his parents insisted he stay in school and when he graduated in 1944, he moved to New York to attend Julliard. He got caught up in the "bop" world that had taken over 52nd street and soon dropped out to perform jazz full time in 1945.
In 1948, he began organizing jazz players together to record a new style of jazz that was more laid-back; this spawned the "cool jazz" movement. He also recorded Walkin', a record that spawned "hard bop". Between 1955 and 1958, he put together several groups of jazz artists known as quintets and sextets and while they created wonderful music, the groups were never stable; many were addicted to drugs. However, in 1958, Miles was able to record Milestones, the first album to include "modal jazz" songs. The next few years until 1963 were spent recording albums with Gil Evans and the famous song "The Duke" was one of their compositions.
In 1959, Miles decided to begin recording what he considered to be his great work, Kind of Blue. The album, which contained the songs "All Blues" "So What" and "Freddie Freeloader" is the best-selling jazz album of all time, earning quadruple platinum status with more than 4 million albums sold. The next years were filled with more singles and albums, the most famous of which debuted in 1964 ("Footprints" and "Nefertiti") and are now jazz standards.
Miles never really stopped recording or influencing artists even as his popularity faded a bit. James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and even Sly and the Family Stone listed him as influences. He released several albums in the 80s that sold well but were not critically acclaimed. In 1986, his last album, Tutu, was released and won him a Grammy.
Miles passed away on September 28, 1991 from a combination of stroke, respiratory failure, and pneumonia. His music was known for its pure sound as well as its impressive use of pitch and articulation. He was famous for favoring a minimalist playing style that emphasized low-register sounds but also being able to play songs on his trumpet that were extremely technically demanding. He's credited for influencing countless artists and spawning a whole new era of jazz and gibson guitar music.
Though Miles Davis had passed away close to twenty years ago, his music is still as vibrant and vital as the times when he was alive.