Amazon Vehicles Fall Reading 2016 Amazon Fashion Learn more Discover it $5 Albums Fire TV Stick Happy Belly Coffee Totes Amazon Cash Back Offer TheKicks TheKicks TheKicks  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 All-New Kindle Oasis Florida Georgia Line Shop Now STEM
Customer Review

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best all-around biography yet written about Miles Davis!, October 30, 2002
This review is from: So What: The Life of Miles Davis (Hardcover)
Prior to SO WHAT I felt that, as revealing as many prior Davis bios were (including Miles' own book), their sum was somehow less than the parts. That is, there was more to understand about Miles Davis than what was collectively written. Along comes SO WHAT, the most balanced and coherent one-stop source yet for getting to know about the entirety of Miles Davis' life. As much as Miles urged us to let the music speak for itself, the context and environment in which Davis' art was created is important, and author John Szwed is up to the challenge to walk down the many paths that lead to and from Davis' music and life (e.g., discussing the aesthetics of artists as wide-ranging as Stockhausen and Sly Stone, both of whom impacted Miles' musical vision in the 1970s). Szwed doesn't attempt to cram every interesting, revealing, or just plain provocative story from prior books into his bio. Still, his research does come up with some errors previously presented as facts, and there are plently of newfound "Miles Davis stories" to amuse and/or amaze the reader, for better and worse.
What the author seems to do is pick and choose among the previously-revealed tidbits about Miles and use them as supplements to 1) his open-minded knowledge about the entirety of Davis' music (as well as the cultural and commercial environment in which it was created), and 2) fresh, revealing interviews he conducted with family members and others close to the subject at key points in his life. Having unprecedented access to Davis' family was possibly the missing piece of the puzzle needed to really reconcile what was already known about Miles with the many contradictions that sat unresolved for decades (e.g., tough exterior, insecure interior). Even as Szwed stays in tune with Davis' music from beginning to end, he reveals with unprecedented detail just how chaotic his personal life was. Previously I thought Davis was unlucky to have died so relatively young...albeit at age 65. Given all of the substance abuse and other problems he faced (and created for himself), I'm now amazed that Miles lasted so long, and how he could--with a bare minimum of lulls over nearly a half-century--be artistically creative right up to his final hospitalization in 1991.
Being that Miles' life was often sensationalistic to begin with, Szwed plays it cool with this hot topic, writing the way that Davis played, sans ornamentation. SO WHAT stays focused on the big picture...with details that dip beneath the surface throughout Miles' entire life. The information seems mostly accurate; among the errors that I caught were that Szwed states the 1985 Artists United vs. Apartheid SUN CITY project in which Davis participated was a Quincy Jones production (in reality it was led by Little Steven and Arthur Baker). The author is confusing that benefit recording with WE ARE THE WORLD from the same year which Jones did direct (this error undermines Szwed's critique of the SUN CITY album). Also, it's unfortunate that the 20-CD COMPLETE MONTREUX boxed set came along too late to be included here, because the high quality of that music is the best evidence yet that Miles' final years were musically-productive ones. However, all this means is that understanding Davis remains an ongoing process. Even with its few minor flaws, no one to date has better unraveled the enigmatic genius of Miles Davis than Szwed. I recommended this book first, with Paul Tingen's MILES BEYOND next in line.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in

Review Details



J. Lund

Location: SoCal, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,678,950