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Miles: The Autobiography

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  7,171 ratings  ·  377 reviews
For more than forty years Miles Davis has been in the front rank of American music. Universally acclaimed as a musical genius, Miles is one of the most important and influential musicians in the world. The subject of several biographies, now Miles speaks out himself about his extraordinary life.

Miles: The Autobiography, like Miles himself, holds nothing back. For the first

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Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 15th 1990 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1989)
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Community Reviews

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Books Ring Mah Bell
****Bad words ahead!!! stop reading now if you get your panties in a bunch around "naughty words". ****
If foul language offends you, DO NOT pick up this book.
If you could give a shit, pick it up and enjoy!

one motherfucking good read!

-read it with a glass of wine and some miles playing in the background-
it will blow your mind, motherfucker!
Ethan Miller
An absolute must for musicians and fans. I would think this autobiography would be interesting for anyone just based on the insight into such a magnificent cultural era(s) in our country but I am biased because I love Miles and his work. The narrative really reads like you are being spoken to in Davis' tone, cadence and patois. And he seems to hold little back including a lot of recollections and ideas that you wish were not part of someone's heart and mind that you so greatly admire. But that i ...more
Ben Loory
i won't say this is the absolute best book i've ever read, but it sure is a motherfucker, as miles would probably say if he were here. though actually he'd probably just punch me in the face for saying that and tell me to come up with my own shit to say, instead of copying him and trying to look hip when i'm not. and he'd be right about that as he is about pretty much everything else, except maybe on the question of whether or not one should beat women, but hey, everybody's got their blind side. ...more
Nate
A long, rambling epic that careens between stuff like Miles breaking down in surprising depth the multiple jazz zeitgeists he was involved in and Miles uncomfortably sitting in the back of a car with Charlie "Bird" Parker and a prostitute while Bird simultaneously gets his dick sucked and eats chicken. So much fucking dirt on the musical idols of every jazz nerd... according to Miles Mingus was an intensely racist rageaholic, Armstrong was an Uncle Tom, Coltrane was a nose-picker and Billie Holl ...more
Andre
What a treat. I waited far too long to read this book, but I finally did and have been richly rewarded. I now have this book as the 2nd best biography I have ever read. For those who are interested in the first, it is Arthur Ashe. But Miles came damn close to challenging for that number one spot. He was extremely genuine and forthright about his life, even admitting to slapping and abusing women, which is brave, only because it isn't mandatory to reveal such scurrilous behavior.

The honesty abou
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Allan MacDonell
Miles Davis's autobiography takes no pains whatsoever to varnish the author's reputation as a kind and loving human being. By far, the word that appears more often than any other in Miles: The Autobiography, written in partnership with Quincy Troupe, is that 12-letter, four-syllable all-purpose standby for a person who engages in sexual relations with his own mother. In whip-quick conversational prose that moves with the deft, percussive rhythms of truth when it riffs out hesitation free, Davis ...more
tim
One bad*ss motherf*cker.
Columbus
Quite simply, this is one of the best autobiographies you will ever read. It's just a real honest look at a musical genius who gives it all to you Straight, No Chaser (referencing Thelonious Monk) with all of the warts and flaws included.

If you thought you knew everything about Miles Davis you might want to read this book to find out otherwise. He is brutally honest about everything here including: racism, drugs, women, physical abuse, music, family issues etc...This book is written in a very co
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Julene
I love this book. It is in Miles own words from interviews and he says it like it is, lays out his life, his music and many personal aspects of relationships with family and women, as well as his health. A brilliant musician he was a master at mentoring musicians. If you want to learn about the creative process this book provides an amazing study.

Some quotes:
"A musician's attitude is the music he plays."
"Things take time, you know, you just don't learn something new and do it overnight. It has
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Adam
As usual, it took me no time at all to finish this one since it has to do with a subject I'm obsessed with. There couldn't be a more mind-boggling character of the Black Jazz community of the 20th century than this man.(maybe Archie Shepp)[where's his book?:] It reads so well, giving you the sense that he's just sitting there lighting cigarette after cigarette, pouring brandy after brandy. Each time you pick it back up, he's wearing a new pair of sunglasses, or a new fucked up hat. It also made ...more
Ian Klappenskoff
"Some kind of happiness is measured out in Miles."
Ben Winch
This is one of the most inspiring musician biographies I've ever read, and I'm not a rabid Miles fan. It's good in the same way the recent Keith Richards autobiography is good - because it's a book about music by a guy who loves music, has played a lot of music and knows a lot about music. Also, unlike the comparable Ray Charles autobiography it doesn't wind down halfway through when it becomes clear its protagonist is an incurable man of habit and a control freak. Nah, that ain't Miles. Miles i ...more
Jodi
This is a very honest autobiography. Davis thought (for good reason) that he was a wonderful musician and didn't let anyone dissuade him. At the same time, in many respects this book is a name dropping list of great musicians Davis worked with and for and lauched. I was turned off by the language even though I knew that it was absolutely Davis's voice. I also didn't think he explained the politics of Black Power well enough. I understood his point of view but he tried to stay apolitical while ha ...more
Andy
Jul 30, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jazz lovers
Shelves: jazznbeats
When Miles played his trumpet he's a crowd pleaser, and this book does just that. There's some great anecdotes in this book, like Miles telling us one of the biggest influences on his trumpet playing was Orson Welles' soothing radio voice(!). He tells us John Coltrane used to pick his boogers and eat them (!). Whether he's telling Thelonious Monk to fuck off or fight a drug habit, Miles has served a real page-turner. You won't get bored with this one!
Sentimental Surrealist
Over the course of these four hundred pages, Miles switches between electrifying discussions of his and others' creative processes and insults directed at the musicians he worked with. Take it as you will, I guess, but the music-talk is as wonderful as one would expect. And treat yourself to a shot of the liquor of your choice every time he calls someone or something a motherfucker.
Seth
tips for being a great artist:

1) never doubt yourself
2) never repeat yourself
3) never admit that you were wrong
4) do drugs

Michael Anderson
When I drove from SC to CA roughly a thousand years ago, it was in an old Ford Pinto station wagon with a radio and an 8-track tape player. It wasn't until I was passing through Texas and radio coverage became limited to cowboy country music and low wattage repent-or-get-fucked-to-hell tele-preachers, that I realized I had no music in the car. I looked around and, under the passenger seat, found a copy of Miles Davis's Live-Evil. I looped that tape nonstop all the way to LA and ended up developi ...more
Andy
this is a re-read for me, one of those i read in grad school for my cw project and wanted to come back b/c a new audio book version had come out. a previous audio had come out years ago with LeVar Burton dropping Miles f*bombs and motherf*bombs, but since it was abridged, it had the feel of a history book, with "I played on this date with these musicians" and "I played on that date" peppering the latter stages of the material. Plus while Burton stretched himself to read the book, you never truly ...more
Dan
the book has an amazing beginning, but unfortunately really goes down hill as soon as Miles establishes himself as a solo musician. Mirroring the book's decline, Miles also completely changes around this time. Starting with an upperclass and educated background, Miles quickly turns into a hate-filled, drug addict, racist megalomaniac. Maybe his personality became so unattractive that it detracted from my enjoyment of the book. There really isn't that much information about the music once you rea ...more
Blaine
As Miles might whisper, this is a motherfucker of an autobiography. Chock full of juicy anecdotes from the world of jazz, Miles tells the truth in his own words from the depths of heroin addiction to the heights of the great quintet sessions. All along the way he tells his story from his perspective, both dishing out the dirt on everyone from Charlie Parker to Billie Holiday to singing their praises. Mostly follows his life chronologically revealing more about the man that will make you either l ...more
Andrew G


Like hearing one of his albums, his thirst for constant upheaval and innovation dominates the book. It's full of fascinating stories entertainingly told, and a lot of it is fucking hilarious. He doesn't gloss over his past drug addictions, domestic abuses or madness and he can be a frightening figure sometimes, but his raw honesty is one of the books strong points.
His racism becomes distracting at times, but for someone growing up in the mid west during the 30's I guess it's expected. Dark, fun
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Karen Newberry
I didn't love Miles Davis after reading this but I do think it was an honest and accurate biography. Tons of detail about his life and the evolution of Jazz from the 1940's-1980's.
Helgi Ásgeirsson
Loved every word of it. Miles is a cat that was very much a part of everything going on in America from 1944-1989. Historically, individually and artistically this book will touch you in an honest way. From Sartre to Hendrix Davis will make you laugh, cry and relate. I even enjoyed the nerdy musical refrences.
Alex
This is a fascinating read. I bought this when I was a jazz student in school and only got to reading it now. I'm sort of glad I didn't read it then because he is very tough on women and white musicians and I was of a wimpier mindset back then. But I also sort of wish I did read it back then because it connected a lot of the dots for me about different musicians playing with one another and also gave me a better timeline in my mind of his musical progression.

On a larger scale, this book is an im
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Alex Pyatetsky
The word "Autobiography" in the title isn't accidental as this book could have easily been called, "Setting the Record Straight, Motherfuckers."

Like Mike Tyson's incredible autobiography, Miles leaves no room for speculation with his brutally forthcoming depiction of addiction, neuroticism, failure as a parent and even domestic violence.

This book documents the process that was Miles Davis. Like Steve Jobs, Miles gives you no room to romanticize the person behind the creation. It forces you to wr
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Amanda
Jan 23, 2009 Amanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: jazz fans,
Recommended to Amanda by: lb
Shelves: read-in-2009
Unlike other co-written autobiographies I've read (Three Cups comes to mind first), there was no third person aftertaste about Miles. This book is his story, in his voice, with his words- though Quincy Troupe could have done Miles (and the rest of us) a favor and edited a little more closely to refrain from repeating things several times. But I have the highest regard for Quincy's ability to step back and rearrange the story without diminishing Miles' voice.

Miles himself is so angry, so talented
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Paul
It's easy to hear Miles' raspy voice when reading this book, which is based on interviews or oral histories. Which means that it has an immediacy and redundancy of that sort of approach. His account reads like an index or Who's Who to American jazz in light of those he learned from, grew up with, played alongside and then empowered in this own bands. (The book would have benefited from a discography to refer to.) I've renewed my acquaintance with his recordings during this reading. Miles doesn't ...more
Jonathan
He revolutionized music on 5 occasions. Next to Glass & Reich and ArvoPärt, this man’s work was a marked transition in my life. Reading his story opened up the narrative of jazz in my world. I had never read the words“M***F**” so many times in my life. I read it every few years.
Andy
This book is rated MF, and I don't mean mezzo forte. Davis lays it all out, including language, so if that offends you, stay far away. The book is (what seems to be) a raw, honest reflection of the life of one of America's greatest and most misunderstood musicians. I recognize that Miles Davis was a genius and I know he had lots of demons, but I wanted to hear more about the music and the act of creativity behind it and less about his adventures and misadventures in drugs and women. When he does ...more
Seamus Thompson
One of the funniest books I've ever read. My only complaint is that he didn't devote more time to his electric period.
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Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.

Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Davis was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz from World War II to the 1990s. He played on various early bebop records and recorded one of the first cool jazz records. He was partially responsible for the development of m
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