The other day, while stumbling around the Internet, I came across the first official Playboy interview — that of Alex Haley’s 1962 conversation with Miles Davis. The interview was published in the September edition and was considered quite controversial at the time. Consider this comment from the interview, and keep in mind what the world was like in 1962, and the shock it may have caused in certain segments of our society: “In high school I was best in music class on the trumpet, but the prizes went to the boys with blue eyes. I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn.”
Now 54 years later, in the context of today’s world the interview doesn’t seem as controversial, but it remains a significant window to the soul of the era’s most revered jazz musician and one the culture’s most enigmatic figures. His opinions on race, politics and culture continue to be important and make for an extremely entertaining read, and are a reminder of the complexity of American life.
The discussion was so popular that monthly interviews with cultural titans of their day whose perspective and opinions were almost as “shocking” as the magazine’s more popular “content” became a part of the business model marketed as “Entertainment for Men.” So, in addition to Miles sparking a variety of musical pathways, he was also influential in the world of publishing. The interviews were generally so consistently acclaimed that “I read Playboy for the interviews” was the comic rationale many men used for explaining their subscription to their mailman.
You can read the entire interview by clicking here.
Miles Davis plays “Autumn Leaves,” from 1964