Miles Davis: the saint and the sinner

miles5 I’m not too engaged with the recent ‘Chris Brown beat up Rihanna’ hullabaloo because frankly I’m not interested in either as artists, and it’s a story I catch only in fragments on various Blogs. That’s not to say I’m not sorry to hear Brown allegedly roughed up Rihanna, but it’s not my #1 concern these days.

So where does Miles Davis fit into all this Chris Brown/Rihanna mess you ask?

Jozen Cummings, the online editor for Vibe, has a terrific Blog post this week about Chris Brown fans who are presently debating what to do now that the singer is facing allegations of assault.

Cummings has the answer: “…remember Miles Davis.”

A longtime fan of Miles, Cummings had to look past the dark side of the jazz icon (especially after getting a hold of Miles: The Autobiography) and just appreciate the brilliant music, separate the personal imperfections from the musical skill.

What I learned with Miles Davis is that my loyalty is not to the man but to what the man created. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know who he really was except for what he told me in his autobiography. So why would I write off the very thing he’s made for me (his music) to enjoy simply because outside of his job he was (from what I read) a complete jerk who gave the world the middle finger?

It’s a fine line, and I applaud Cummings for not allowing Davis’ personal demons to keep him from enjoying the music. He might not agree with Davis’ behavior, but he’s certainly not about to stop listening to “Miles Ahead.” It’s about the music, and that’s all any of us should want from Davis – saint or sinner. If your idols can be angels, that’s great, if not, I don’t plan to delete my Ray Charles, Elvis and Sinatra collections anytime soon.

And though Chris Brown is not in league with Miles Davis, there are parallels for his admirers, now faced with having to rationalize this latest news and how it finds a place alongside their dedication. Cummings asks not only if Brown can bounce back personally, but will his fans be able to take him back.

Chris Brown’s dilemma is that most of his fans weren’t really into his music the way I (and most others) was in to Miles Davis. Miles would tell you himself he wasn’t the prettiest dude in the room, but the reason why so many people put him on a pedestal was because no matter who was in the room, he was better at what he did than anybody was at doing anything else. Chris Brown, on the other hand, can only make the same claim if the room is having a dance contest. He was an extended flavor of the month who’s entire catalog can be listened to in the length of time it takes for most people to clean their house.

It’s a pretty forgiving culture we live in, so nothing shocks me where ‘celebrity’ is concerned – regardless of who it is. But as ‘fans’ we each make a personal investment in the person(s) we cheer, praise and defend. So with any slipup or character imperfection we have to play our own version of Perry Mason in our hearts to decide the next step of allegiance. But we’re fans for a reason, so unless it’s something off the charts bonkers we usually bounce back. Just because Keith Richards has been arrested for drugs doesn’t mean I’m trading in all my Rolling Stones records!


2 thoughts on “Miles Davis: the saint and the sinner”

  1. If we were to be fans of celebrities based off of their personal morality, there would be no celebrities to be a fan of.

    I think the demons Miles fought in his personal life add to the rich tapestry of his music and his career. If Miles were a “nice guy” he probably wouldn’t have been able to create the music, and influence the people, that he did.

    Illegal behavior should be condemned and not celebrated, but as a fan, you have to take the person as a whole and understand that enjoying their art is not condoning their behavior.

  2. Hi Matt – Great point about Miles’ personal life adding to the nuance of his music. In the big stew that was his musical creativity, you take exclude the darker ingredients and the final product just isn’t as powerful. He created amazing work and that output doesn’t all come from sunshine, rainbows and puppy dogs. For better or worse Miles had the right mix when it comes to his music.

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