Miles Davis (Playboy interview, 1962):
Then they claim I ignore the audience while I’m playing. Man, when I’m working, I know the people are out there. But when I’m playing, I’m worrying about making my horn sound right.
And they bitch that I won’t talk to people when we go off after a set. That’s a damn lie. I talk plenty of times if everything’s going like it ought to and I feel right. But if I got my mind on something about my band or something else, well, hell, no, I don’t want to talk. When I’m working I’m concentrating. I bet you if I was a doctor sewing on some son of a bitch’s heart, they wouldn’t want me to talk.
Anybody wants to believe all this crap they hear about me, it’s their problem, not mine. Because, look, man, I like people. I love people! I’m not going around telling everybody that. I try to say that my way – with my horn. Look, when I was a boy, ten years old, I got a paper route and it got bigger than I could handle because my customers liked me so much. I just delivered papers the best I could and minded my business, the same way I play my horn now. But a lot of the people I meet now make me sick.
I won’t play nowhere I know has the kind of audiences that you waste your breath to play for. I’m talking about them expense-account ofays that use music as a background for getting high and trying to show off to the women they brought. They ain’t come to hear good music. They don’t even know how to enjoy themselves. They drink too much, they get loud, they got to be seen and heard. They’ll jump up and dance jigs and sing. They ain’t got no manners - don’t pay their women no respect. What they really want is some Uncle Tom entertainment if it’s a Negro group on the stand. These are the kind will holler, “Hey, boy, play Sweet Georgia Brown!” You supposed to grin and play that. I hate to play in a place full of those kind of squares so bad that if there wasn’t nobody else to play to, I’d invest in some more property and just stay home and collect rents. I can’t stand dumb-ass people not respecting the other customers that have come to hear the music. Sometimes one table like that has bugged me so that when I get home or to my hotel, I walk the floor because I can’t sleep.
I told you I ain’t going to play nowhere in the South that Negroes can’t come. But I ain’t going to play nowhere in the North that Negroes don’t come. It’s one of two reasons they won’t, either because they know they ain’t wanted, or because they don’t like the joint’s regular run of music. Negroes ain’t got as much money to throw away in nightclubs as white people. So a club that Negroes patronize, you can figure that everybody that goes there comes expecting to hear good music.
I grew up with an allowance, and I had a big newspaper route. I saved most of what I made except for buying records. But when I first left home as a musician, I used to spend all I made, and when I went on dope, I got in debt. But after I got enough sense to kick the habit, I started to make more than I needed to spend unless I was crazy or something.
Now I got a pretty good portfolio of stock investments, and I got this house - it’s worth into six figures, including everything in it. My four kids are coming up fine. When the boys get in from school, I want you to see them working out on the bags in our gym downstairs. I keep myself in shape and teach the kids how to box. They can handle themselves. Ain’t nothing better that a father can pass along. Then I got my music, I got Frances, and my Ferrari - and our friends. I got everything a man could want - if it just wasn’t for this prejudice crap. It ain’t that I’m mad at white people, I just see what I see and I know what’s happening. I am going to speak my mind about anything that drags me about this Jim Crow scene. This whole prejudice mess is something you would feel so good if it could just be got rid of, like a big sore eating inside of your belly.