Yesterday, May 26, 2014 marked what would have been the 88th birthday of iconic trumpeter and jazz legend Miles Davis. For jazz fans everywhere, the day has always been held as a day to remember his tremendous contribution to jazz and music as a whole. However, one of Davis’ former neighbors was determined to make yesterday particularly special for his legacy.
New York City tour guide Shirley Zafirau was Davis’ neighbor for many years. She considered him a friend, and remembers his positive impact on their community fondly.
“He interacted with the community on the street,” Zafirau told the New York Times, remembering how he would sit on the steps outside of his house, occasionally leading outdoor jam sessions. “He really liked being there.”
The iconic street where these spontaneous jam sessions took place is 77th Street, in New York’s Upper West side. Davis lived at 312 West 77th Street, New York City in the latter part of his life until the mid ’80s, and it stands today as the site where he composed what has now been widely accepted as his greatest works.
Zafirau still lives on the block, and wanted to solidify Davis’ legacy in the local community. So, she started a campaign to rename the street to Miles Davis Way. Her campaign eventually caught the attention of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who championed the cause all the way to the mayor’s office until New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg officially signed an order renaming the street in December, 2013. And here we are.
On the day of his birthday almost a thousand people showed up for a block party celebrating the unveiling of the newly titled street, which will officially see the stretch of W 77th Street between Riverside and West End (the block containing 312 W 77th) renamed to Miles Davis Way.
Davis rented an apartment in the building, and in the 25 years he lived there, he wrote some of his most celebrated albums – Including ‘Kind of Blue’ and ‘Bitches Brew.’ “The contribution he made to music, especially when he lived on that street, was immeasurable; some of the greatest music of all time,” the writer of ‘Miles: The Autobiography’ Quincy Troupe wrote.
Davis died on September 28, 1991 from pneumonia, respiratory failure, and a stroke. He was 61.