Miles Davis Way Unveiled in New York City

The legendary jazz artist is celebrated in his old neighborhood.

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“I’m going to work, Miles.”

“Where’s work?”

“In the garment center, 40th and Broadway,” she said.

“Come on, I’ll give you a ride,” said Miles.

“He gave me a lift. So whenever he’d see me on the street, he’d say, ‘You need a ride?’ He was cool, nice and a little quiet.”

This picture differs from accounts by those who ruefully recall his mistreatment of women and his drug abuse. Troupe calls those times of substance abuse his “dark periods” and connects Miles’ abusive tendencies to his own demons, as well as hanging around pimps, drug dealers and the like. As much of a tortured artist as Davis certainly was at times in his career, his musical genius is the basis of his artistic reputation and the justification for his recognition via a street naming.

“He was second to my dad as a father figure and a teacher of music and life,” says Wilburn. “He always told me to stay true to the music. Don’t be pigeonholed, keep progressing and evolving. Never rest on your laurels. Keep it exciting.

“Some musicians peak or level off. Miles never did that. He was always striving to play what was in his mind to direct that sound to the public. He was the first one to wake up in the morning and the last one to go to bed at night. He’d change clothes five or six times a day. That’s how his mind worked.”

Troupe, author too of a memoir about his relationship with Davis, Miles and Me, says that Davis explained the basis of his Picasso-like love affairs with musical forms as well as what remained constant.

“Miles told me: ‘A lot of people want me to play the old music. I can’t play that because I don’t feel it. Things change in the world. I want to know the next thing. I’m always being pulled forward by my own curiosity. Not because of money, like some people say. I’m doing it because that’s where my head is. I’m trying to go with my head and what I’m hearing in my heart. And I’m always changing.