By Deardra Shuler
Gregory Davis: Remembering the Magus of Music
Gregory Davis has penned a story, an intimate tale of a father and son. The fact that the father was musical icon, Miles Davis, has little bearing when viewed through the eyes of a son who only knew Miles as his Dad.
“Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis,” is not a “Daddy Dearest” book. Perhaps Gregory’s training as a psychotherapist allowed him to be non-judgmental because the book is as a matter-of-fact depiction of Miles. It merely states what he was and was not. Throughout the book, one sees Gregory loved his father. In fact, honored and revered him. Yet he does not deny his father’s many demons. He witnessed his father’s struggle with drugs and saw how it often plunged Miles into the darkest ebb of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde deportment. Gregory recognizes that Miles often made demands on people, demands most couldn’t live up to. Miles was a genius who occasionally placed higher expectations and demands upon himself, always seeking to reach the next level of his art. “Greatness comes with a high price,” stated Gregory. “You aren’t given genius without a price being extracted. In the early days, my father was so different. His focus was on his family and he lived by the values he learned from his parents. Fame and drugs stripped that away” said Gregory who also blows a mean horn.
“The writing of this book has been a 16 year project. I felt the new millennium was a perfect time to release the book. It’s an inside view of a great American and an international music icon from the viewpoint of someone who walked by his side. I am his first son. I was Miles’ bodyguard, his assistant road manager, his nurse, and roommate. When Miles needed something, he called on me,” stated Gregory who holds a Masters Degree in Psychotherapy.
“Though the book is a catharsis in a way, I never had any problem with Miles being my father. It was always outside forces that made the problems. As a child, I never realized he was a celebrity until celebrities started coming to our home,” remarked Gregory. Miles loved boxing so encouraged Gregory to box, something that came in handy when Gregory played the role of Miles’ nurse mate and bodyguard. “My father had a way of making people angry. He used foul language and annoyed people to the point they would want to fight Miles. Then, I was forced to deck them,” recalled Gregory of the many times he had to come to his father’s defense.
“Miles was strict at times and very funny at other times. I know he loved me. There were times he was a great father and we did everything together and then there were times he delegated responsibilities to others that he should have taken care of himself,” remarked Gregory who is a member of the Muslim faith. “My father didn’t pay attention to the things he should have paid attention to. It was this failure and his dependence on others to do the right thing that caused my brother Miles, Jr., and me, to be left out of his will. I know my father would never have done that. Never leave his own children out of his will. He signed his will without even reading it. Though my father’s estate was worth millions at the time of his death, my brother and I inherited nothing. He’d sold the 77th Street property so there wasn’t even that,” reiterated Gregory who spent years at his father’s side until forging a life of his own. “My father could have called me anytime. I was only a phone call away,” stated Gregory, a parent himself. A musician, Gregory has a band entitled MDX, an acronym for Miles Davis ‘X’ factor, in other words, the continuation.
As the son of a dentist, Miles Davis came from a middle class background. He studied music at Juilliard. He was a man that defined fashion and indeed was the first black man featured on the cover of Esquire Magazine. Miles loved horses, women, and expensive cars. He also appreciated great musicians. Charlie Parker was revered by Miles as a musical genius. Heroin so ravished Charlie Parker that an autopsy indicated that although Parker was age 34 when he died, his system was older. “After my father kicked heroin he couldn’t even talk about it without feeling physically ill. Drugs also changed my father. The cocaine turned him into a Mr. Hyde. My father was not like a normal man. He didn’t live like an ordinary person. He was a gifted man. I’ve seen my father asleep with his eyes wide open. Dedicated to his craft, Miles could perform and never miss a note, even when deathly ill. I recall an incident when I carried my father on my back in an effort to rush him to the hospital after a performance,” recalled Gregory.
Miles was great friends with Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry. “My father thought Dizzy was God on trumpet.” Gregory claimed. “He had lots of people he respected: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Diahann Carroll and Betty Carter. He loved Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, too” remarked Gregory, also a pugilist. Miles was unlucky in love due to his constant mood swings and violent temper.
Without question, Miles Davis was one of the greatest trumpet players alive. Indeed, Miles changed the sound of the trumpet. “My father was powerful. That is why I entitled the book Magus. Magus is an ancient term for someone with secretive powers,” recalled Davis.
Gregory’s book records Miles Davis’s successes and failures, girlfriends, marriages, relationships with his children and violent behavior. In the end, the great Magus left his sons out of his will, yet tried to hold on until his son could get to his death bed in California. This was the great contradiction that was the genius known as Miles Davis.
All Rights Reserved