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Miles: The Autobiography

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  12,198 ratings  ·  658 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

Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 15th 1990 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1989)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  12,198 ratings  ·  658 reviews

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Books Ring Mah Bell
Mar 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-arts
****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!
Ben Loory
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Ethan Miller
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
A fantastic autobiography! I didn't realize it would be so timely with Davis's commentary on racism in America during his career and through 1990. Still valid today. He was quite bitter about the cultural appropriation and lack of appreciation for jazz in his time. This one is rich with history. Miles is so open and honest that he doesn't come across as a likable man. He is a man in search of respect that certainly didn't give much respect. But here's the thing, he knew this about himself. Full ...more
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, music, favorites
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
Stephen P
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sitting across from me he continues telling me about his life. I don’t particularly like him or find him interesting, at least not as interesting as he finds himself. Laying a line of cocaine on the tabletop, he snorts it then orders another drink. There is one exception which has and still runs through our conversation. His life is lived not only for creativity but for reaching, for further and new means of reaching. This is the experience which provides the meaning in his life. I’m coming to s ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: muse-ik
"Some kind of happiness is measured out in Miles."
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was Miles Davis a devotee of the OULIPO movement? Given his stated disinclination to read books it may be unlikely, but it does seem that he set himself an OULIPOian constraint when dictating the material that was shaped into book form by Quincy Troupe. The constraint was to describe every person, object and experience using only the words motherfucker, shit and bad. His early interest in music? "I remember being fascinated by hearing the records of Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Lunceford...and a whol ...more
Ben Winch
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
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
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Allan MacDonell
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autos-bios
Wow, what a great Bio. I’ve read some really good Bios in the last two years and this one is definitely one of the best. Davis is extremely candid about his life and times as absolutely one of the best Jazz musicians, Ever! And his memory and attention for details makes this definitely worth wild. Davis shares moments and experiences, good & bad and gives great accounts of the different formations of musicians that created numerous bands, big & small, the original making of the He ...more
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.
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
tips for being a great artist:

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

Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: creativity
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
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 15, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best music autobiography ever?
Yes, quite definitely.
Entertaining beyond question.
I think I've read this three times now, and will probably read it 2-3 times more before I die.
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first and only Miles Davis album that I ever bought was Bitches Brew in 1970. I later used the music on the album to jar students in a training class to think creativity, but have not listened to the album in years. So I did not know what to expect when I decided to listen to the autobiography of Miles Davis. The original book came out in 1989. The audio recording that I listened to came out in 2012. I have since listened to the Kind of Blue which many consider his magnum opus. I loved it.

May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I first heard A Kind of Blue over 25 years ago as a young, clueless wannabe musician with a vague understanding of what jazz was. As cliche as it sounds the album spoke to me, flipped some switch within. I’d spend the next half decade devoting my musical life to the genre, devouring any and every recommendation I’d receive from peers.

I suppose by default Miles Davis became my favorite jazz musician but it wasn’t until hearing Bitches Brew - years after dropping out of music school myself - that
Dosha (Bluestocking7) Beard
I loved this audio production of Miles. It was wonderful learning about his life from the early years on and he held nothing back. He tells it like he lived it and does not pretty it up. He is raw and honest and his life story is no different. For me, I learned some surprising things about how he was brought up and how other musicians influenced him; and it all made sense once he explained it. Needles to say I learned a lot about music, and enjoyed the parts I didn't even understand. Even though ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
I finished both the autobiography of Miles Davis as well as Ian Carr’s excellent biography a few weeks back. Both were exhilarating reading to be honest. As for the autobiography I love Miles’ style injected with loads of vernacular and honest, brutal self-criticism at times and megalomaniac self-praise in others. It was a fascinating look into how he viewed his contemporaries and acolytes – particularly the respect he always paid to Trane was touching. I was not aware of the conflict between hi ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was one heck of an autobiography. I've never seen anyone write something about themselves that was so transparent. I have a thing for people that just don't give a damn what other people think. It takes courage to live your life on your own terms. And Miles Davis was clearly one of those types of people.

If interested, I wrote a thorough review over on the blog:
Maya B
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-book, jazz, biography
this was a very candid, no holds barred autobiography. I felt like I really knew Miles Davis after reading this book. I know there is a movie coming soon and I cant wait to see it. I will update this review after I see the movie

WARNING: don't read if you are going to feel offended by the cuss words.
Duffy Pratt
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I liked this book a lot, and it gave me some insight into Miles as a person, and into how he approached his music. He is ferociously smart, intuitive, and comes across as being mostly honest. He certainly does not try to sugarcoat many of his failings, especially when it came to drugs and women. But even with drugs, I've read other things which suggest that he had not fully quite heroin at points where the book claims he had.

There are some things here that bother me in his opinions. He thinks t
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
What a thrilling, shattering book.! Miles's overwhelming personality possesses every inch of mind and soul. Just waiting for the hurricane to fade into my mind so that i start reading it for second time!!
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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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