Monday, September 28, 2009


On this day, 28 September, in 1991 Miles Davis died. Davis's musicianship, trumpet playing and composing is part of jazz history - he is almost universally revered, yet is said to have had a difficult and strange personality. His music, then, must have been exceptionally brilliant to overcome that drawback.

I first became aware of Miles Davis through my husband, the jazz fan. Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, featured on the Davis album "Sketches of Spain" has entranced me from the first time I heard it. I can hardly call myself a jazz fan, yet I can appreciate some pieces, especially those with a semi-classical base.

Miles Davis was born on 26 May 1926 in Alton, Illinois, at 5 am according to Astrodatabank. Some sources have his birthday as 25 May, but Astrodatabank gives 26th and 5am an AA rating - I'm going with that.

Here's an excerpt from an on-line biography. My comments on related astrology follow.
For the last two decades of Davis's career he became more of a jazz curiosity than a musician to be taken seriously. A good part of his fame owed less to his considerable musicianship than to his strange personality. Davis gained a poor reputation in performance for turning his back on audiences, for expressing racial hostility toward whites, for dressing poorly early in his career and wildly later—all of which contributed to his mysterious image.

Davis was a complex man with strengths and weaknesses that would ultimately destroy him. Himself the victim of a policeman's clubbing (reportedly, racially inspired), he had the fairness and courage in the late 1950s to challenge black jazzmen's expectations by filling a piano vacancy with a white player, Bill Evans (1929–1980); but then, by all accounts, Davis often racially taunted him. A physical fitness enthusiast (with his own private gym), he nevertheless took vast amounts of drugs (sometimes, but not always, for pain). Oftentimes unfriendly, he was also capable of acts of generosity toward struggling musicians, both black and white.

Davis was married three times—to dancer Frances Taylor, singer Betty Mabry, and actress Cicely Tyson. All three marriages ended in divorce. He had, in all, three sons, a daughter, and seven grandchildren. He died on September 28, 1991, in Santa Monica, California, of pneumonia, respiratory failure, and a stroke

The Gemini Sun in Davis's natal chart links closely to very little - it lay within a few degrees of the ascendant, but in 12th house, which astrologers consider to be an area of withdrawal. I think this might account in part for his strange personality - turning his back on the audience, for instance, might be a reflection of this.

There's a Grand Trine in emotional, creative and sensitive Water signs in his chart. It links Moon/Saturn in Scorpio to Uranus in Pisces and Pluto in Cancer. While Water signs are generally emotionally driven, and a Grand Trine is a helpful circuit between signs of the same element, the inclusion of Saturn, Uranus and Pluto in this particular Watery circuit bring in a touch of negativity and some bloody-mindedness.

The other main configuration in this chart is a Grand Cross (shown right), involving Moon/Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter and Neptune - made up of square aspects and oppositions - all challenging in different ways, often resulting in a few difficult personality traits. Davis had many challenges to overcome in his life - racial prejudice, addiction and ill health being high on the list. The planets involved in this Grand Cross relate to communication (Mercury) publication and expansion (Jupiter), creativity and addiction (Neptune) and Inner self (Moon)/rigidity and discipline (Saturn). One integrated opposition: Mercury and Moon/Saturn is especially notable here, involving, as it does, Mercury the communications planet opposed by Moon/Saturn a kind of inner self policed by Saturn push-pulling with a need to communicate.

On the positive side, his art - his musicianship - is underlined by Venus, planet of the arts, in go-getting Aries forming a helpful trine to Neptune, planet of creativity in Leo. In addition to his talent in music, I ought to mention that Miles Davis was quite an accomplished painter, it was something he enjoyed in his later years.

More about Miles and his music at "Miles Styles" by Michael S Smith.


Ron Southern said...

I can dig it. As usual, you have good taste in celebrities. As for his strange personality, I guess it'd be a circle jerk to figure out if it was the personality or the heroin that came into conflict with the world first. I like his music, but don't feel inclined to sign any blank checks!

Wisewebwoman said...

Ah, the tortured genius. I love his talent, T. But in the way of all such gifted people, never quite fitting in to the cookie cutter mold.

Ron Southern said...

I wonder, though, who would ever admit to fitting the cookie cutter mold? Almost everyone I meet considers him/her self to be quite unique, no matter what. Someone must be mistaken!

Nick Dagan Best said...

Thanks for that! For anyone interested, I posted an astrology blog about Miles a few years ago, a biographical study combined with the charts of Marilyn Monroe and Allen Ginsberg, who were born the same week as Miles.

Twilight said...

RonSouthern ~~~ Well, I suppose his personality led him to the drug use, and I haven't studies his life story closely enough to discover whether he was difficult before he started taking drugs - but he certainly had a lot to put up with in the USA of his youth. It'd be enough to make anybody difficult, and only the very strong could survive without assistance I guess.

But, as you say, it's likely his addiction played a big part of the strangeness people saw in him.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ His gift lifted him above the crowd, yet he still had to live with that dreadful ugly racial prejudice. Musicians are some of those who came through it, helped by their talent - but not unscathed.

Twilight said...

Ron S ~~~ We're all unique - astrologically and physically, so you're right in one way. I guess it comes down to the way in which we are unique that governs whether our uniqueness is appreciated by the world - or just by our families and friends. :-)

Twilight said...

Nick Dagan Best ~~ Hello!
Thanks for the visit and for the link to your post. I took a quick look just now, and will certainly be back to study it more closely, as there's so much there to take in. Some of it will no doubt go over my head, as profections haven't been in my repertoire up to now. I love to learn though.

Adele Aldridge said...

Thanks for the post about one of my favorite musicians. Besides enjoying Miles Davis's music I find his face mesmerizing. No way I can totally explain that.

Twilight said...

Adele Aldridge ~~ Hi there! He did have a beautiful face, I can understand your attraction. His eyes are central to his beauty and seem to draw the viewer in, yet push them away at the same time - in some photographs anyway.

Ron Southern said...

I don't suppose it's knowable in most cases whether things like that are causative or merely symptoms. We all have our predispositions, not all of which are well known to others.

anyjazz said...

Miles Davis has been the signpost for many jazz converts. Even for those who are stuck in the CW or Disco or Classical mode, Davis has been the converting catalyst. I have met many who have said without reservation that they “don’t like jazz.” Miles Davis changes their minds.

There is something primal and penetrating and indelible about many of the Miles Davis recordings, especially the collaborations with Gil Evans. Even the most convinced of the jazz-haters hear something that attracts them to the music Davis created.

Listening to a musician play jazz is like watching a painter paint. You are there, watching creativity, watching art being born.

Twilight said...

Anyjazz ~~~ I can (kind of) see why that's the case, having previously been someone who viewed jazz with a very jaundiced eye - I mean ear.

Miles Davis seems to have something some other jazz musicians lack - maybe he reaches beyond the simple need to improvise, which I still find a wee bit annoying, to be honest.

I'll never be a true jazz fan, I love melody and lyrics too much. But from the work of Davis and Ben Webster, and one or two others I can at least enjoy a taste of it - now and then.

Nick Dagan Best said...


Miles didn't start using drugs until about May 1949, when he turned 23. Before that, he was a clean-cut, middle class kid, the son of a dentist, who moved to NYC from East St. Louis, ostensibly to study music at Julliard, but ultimately to meet up and play with Charlie Parker, a habitual junkie.

Miles went through a few years exposure to the drug life without being tempted, but finally began after getting depressed following a trip to Europe, where he had had a whirlwind romance with Juliette Greco.

He finally kicked heroin in late 1953-early 1954, but was known to use cocaine in the years that followed, particularly during the 1970s, when his health prevented him from playing as much as he used to.

Twilight said...

Nick Dagan Best ~~~ Many thanks for the additional information.

On balance, I think Miles Davis was naturally inclined to be a bit socially obtuse (or more aptly, the way Americans put it "ornery").
That's supposed to be unusual for Sun Gemini types, even with Sun in 12th house (which sometimes relates to a writer's need for solitude and withdrawal). His Moon/Saturn combination probably had a lot to answer for, in my opinion.
Drug use was bound to play some part in how he was perceived by the public too, but if he'd been a warm gregarious type to start with he'd either have not got into drugs in any serious way, or if he had, then they wouldn't have suddenly changed his personality so radically.

I'm guessing there though, because I have no experience of drugs or drug users - I might be barking up the wrong tree entirely. :-)