Guaranteed to Raise Miles of Smiles

Two events that led to damn-near every great musical moment of our lives occurred on this date. The first: the birth of the cool, Miles Davis, who would have been 98 today.  There is really no one to compare to Miles Davis as an influencer in modern jazz and, with Bitches Brew, he invented a genre which would later be called jazz-rock fusion.

The list of musicians who came from Miles’s bands basically reads like a history of the 70’s jazz my friends and I listened to: Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, George Benson, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Airto, Keith Jarrett, and Larry Young, plus earlier collaborations with John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, Gerry Mulligan, and Thelonious Monk.

Miles’ combination of talent and an eye tor talent is truly unequaled in any genre of music.

Also on this date a mere 57 years ago was the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band signaling the Summer of Love and all rock music that followed. The Beatles had been John’s band through Rubber Soul. It then became Paul’s band starting with Magical Mystery Tour. Only on Revolver and Pepper were both musical geniuses in leadership, fully-engaged-in-the-moment, enhanced creativity mode. They were, in many ways, the ultimate yin-and-yang of popular music.

Consider: John was right-handed with a tough veneer covering a sentimental, peace-loving heart; the poet who best reflected our very humanity through raw, personal songwriting; the shy, very near-sighted kid who wanted to change the world. Paul was left-handed with a sweetly charming veneer covering a very carefully controlling, profit-focused mind; the uber-musician who tapped into our emotions with keen observations of us from a third-party perspective; the good-looking, popular kid who wanted to be rich and successful.

So much has been written about Pepper, but one final thought. This arguably would have been the best album ever without anything else as a close second if The Beatles had put out only one record in 1967. Instead, they slapped their singles and other songs on MMT. Consider the album they could have issued with songs from ’67:

No other band or artist’s album would top that lineup. Amazing. As it was, Sgt. Pepper was still era-defining and ushered in popular music as a serious art form. After Pepper people bought albums to listen to, to study as art. Guaranteed to raise a smile, and our consciousness, indeed.

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