In 1962, future Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alex Haley sat down with jazz musician Miles Davis for what would become an institution of American journalism—the Playboy Interview. To celebrate the Interview’s 50th anniversary, Playboy has culled 50 of its most (in)famous Interviews and will publish them over the course of 50 weekdays (from September 4, 2012 to November 12, 2012) via Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform. Here, a glimpse at that historic conversation with Davis from the September 1962 issue.
“Some critic that didn’t have nothing else to do started this crap about I don’t announce numbers, I don’t look at the audience, I don’t bow or talk to people, I walk off the stage, and all that. Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player. I only can do one thing—play my horn—and that’s what’s at the bottom of the whole mess. I ain’t no entertainer, and ain’t trying to be one. I am one thing, a musician.” “I hate how people are always comparing artists…always writing that one’s better than another one. Ten men can have spent all their lives learning technical expertness on their instruments, but just like in any art, one will play one style and the rest nine other ways. And if some critics just don’t happen to like a man’s style, they will knock the artist. That bugs the hell out of musicians. It’s made some damn near mad enough to want to hang up their horns. 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.”
“I don’t know how many times different whites have started talking, telling me they was raised up with a Negro boy. But I ain’t found one yet that knows whatever happened to that boy after they grew up.”
“In high school, I was the best in the music class on the trumpet. I knew it and all the rest knew it—but all the contest first prizes went to the boys with blue eyes. It made me so mad I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn. If I hadn’t met that prejudice, I probably wouldn’t have had as much drive in my work. I have thought about that a lot. I have thought that prejudice and curiosity have been responsible for what I have done in music.”
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