5 for Friday: 5 Revealing Quotes from Miles Davis’s 1962 Interview with Playboy

In 1962, Playboy magazine published its first interview, which just happened to be a conversation between jazz’s biggest star and Alex Haley. It’s amazing to me that we are still dealing with these same issues, nearly 60 years later. I highly recommend that you read the entire interview, as it is a fascinating window into the racial climate of the early 1960s.

1. Race I

“Nobody seems to think much about the colored people and the Chinese and Puerto Ricans and Japanese that watch TV and buy the things they advertise. All these races want to see some of their own people represented in the shows — I mean, besides the big stars. I know I’d feel better to see some kids of all races dancing and acting on shows than I would feel about myself up there playing a horn. The only thing that makes me any different from them is I was lucky.”

2. Race II

“I had seen a lot of them West Point cadets [in a bar and] I asked why there was so many of them in town. Man, I just asked the cat a question and he moved up the bar and didn’t speak! But then somebody recognized me and he got red as that electrician. He came trying to apologize and saying he had my records. I told him I had just paid enough taxes to cover his free ride at West Point, and I walked out. I guess he’s somewhere now with the others saying I’m such a bastard.”

3. Other trumpet players

“Trumpet players, like anybody else, are individualized by their different ideas and styles. The thing to judge in any jazz artist is does the man project, and does he have ideas. You take Dizzy — he does, all the time, every time he picks up his horn. Some more cats — Clark Terry, Ray Nance, Kenny Dorham, Roy Eldridge, Harold Baker, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Bobby Hackett — a lot of them. Hell, that cat down in New Orleans, Al Hirt, he blows his ass off, too!”

4. Critics

“I don’t pay no attention to what critics say about me, the good or the bad. The toughest critic I got, and the only one I worry about, is myself. My music has got to get past me and I’m too vain to play anything I think is bad.”

5. Gigs he won’t take

“I won’t take a booking nowhere in the South. I told you I just can’t stand Jim Crow, so I ain’t going down there in it. There’s enough of it here in the North, but at least you have the support of some laws.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s