The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Annals of Crime #68


Original Caption:

Musician Arrested.

New York -- Miles Davis, 32, of 881 10th Avenue, a trumpeter now appearing in Birdland, 52nd Street and Broadway, was arrested after fighting with patrolman Gerald Kilduff, who had ordered him to move from crowded sidewalk. In the scuffle, Davis was hit on the head with a blackjack for which a St. Clare's ambulance had to be called. (1959)

16 comments :

Robert Fiore said...

"Crazed Negro Bangs Head On Nightstick as Policeman Stands Helplessly By"

Tom Sutpen said...

Precisely.

You'll note that the caption left out the part about Miles getting el-kabonged by a separate, off-duty, deeply inebriated cop who happened upon the scene (which was barely a scuffle at that point) and decided to mete out some street justice on his own.

But I guess you can't include absolutely everything in a caption, otherwise your average disorderly conduct beef would read like 'Gone With the Wind'

I've always wondered:

Did the customers at Birdland get a refund that night?

swac said...

His shirt looks kind of red.

Mark said...

Clearly the "Peace Through Understanding" theme of the World's Fair failed to catch on in some precincts. I love Davis's defiant stance in the photo.

(Even having known the thematic threads that implicitly and explicitly connect the posts here, I've finally figured out that the Gunslinger is best read from bottom to top!)

erik hogstrom said...

I wouldn't mess with Miles.

Stephen Ley said...

I guess Officer Kilduff didn't like bebop.

Timmy said...

Well, no wonder Miles became the huge racist he develpoed into...

estiv said...

Knowing how much Miles loved his clothes, that stain might have been his least favorite part of the whole experience. Okay, not really.

Kyle said...

A recent New York Magazine (June 8) had a different photo concerning this incident. It was probably taken minutes later, but features a close up of Miles' head with bandages over the wounds.

According to the mag, he was between sets and just "escorted a young white woman to a taxi and paused on the sidewalk to light a cigarette. A cop told him to move along. Davis replied, in his defiant hoarse voice, 'I work here' and, pointing to the club's marquee, 'That's my name up there.' A plainclothes cop, misreading the exchange, rushed over and beat" Miles over the head. He was released on a $10,000 bail. Doctors had to sew five stitches due to the wounds.

This was just a week after he released Kind of Blue.

MichaelRyerson said...

The indignity suffered for being a black man in a white world just jumps off the page with his posture and expression. Man, just about the time this picture was taken my father fired a man who used the 'N' word (twice) in our grocery store and yet when I look at this image I have the feeling I need to apologise to this guy.

estiv said...

Well, no wonder Miles became the huge racist he develpoed into...

Nope. That's a common image, but as much as Miles spoke loudly and often of his anger and hatred of white racism, he always had strong relationships with white individuals. In his book, he mentions that there were three photos of people that he loved who were gone, that he kept by his bedside wherever he was staying: his mother, his father, and Gil Evans. Not the action of a racist.

In the same book, he tells the story of traveling to an event where he was to be honored at the Reagan White House. He was in a limousine with several strangers, one of them a Republican woman who said to him, "Your mammy must be very proud of you." This was about 25 years after the incident noted here. It's not racist to find that offensive.

Nick Rossi said...

Great comments estiv & Kyle. With all of the recent Kind of Blue anniversary "ink", it's odd this incident hasn't been mentioned more often. It's a pretty sharp contrast to the dreamy swing of that LP. In addition to Davis's book, I also highly recommend Ashley Kahn's book on KOB - not only does it comprehensively talk about the record, but it covers a lot of what was going on in Davis's life at the time. A very interesting time, to say the least.

Pedro said...

"I'm black, and they won't let me forget it...I'm black, alright, and I won't let THEM forget it."

estiv said...

"I'm black, and they won't let me forget it...I'm black, alright, and I won't let THEM forget it."

Yes, from Tribute to Jack Johnson. Perfect--thanks!

sabo76 said...

Miles was like many of us who hate the actions of some whites, comment loudly about those actions and are represented as hating white folks but most of us don't. Hate is a festering, open sore that can cause a systemic infection and kill creativity, happiness and growth. We shout out about injustice then sing, laugh, create in song, word, paint etc. to vent negative feelings. Goes all the way back to the slave experience. That's how we survived/survive.

Lola said...

Who is the man standing close to Miles in this picture? The cop has some distance, like he knows he should not be there. Is this Illinois Jacquet or someone else?