Mikel Elam And Miles Part 2

The Death Of Miles

The Death Of Miles

…..After the death of his friend Miles Davis, guest blogger Mikel Elam returned to Philadelphia to continue on with his painting. It was around that time that I was introduced to Mikel by a mutual friend. I was interested in meeting anyone that knew anything about Miles. So when my friend told me that Miles former assistant was back in town, I immediately wanted to meet him. In many way’s I idolized the jazz legend. I was introduced to his music at a very early age. Jazz music was a focal point of life growing in the Ward household.

My father, Milton Ward adored Miles Davis and so did many of his peers. His groundbreaking album “Kind of Blue”, became an auditory mantra in our home, as well as the many collaborations that Miles produced with other noted performer’s including Gil Evans. Mikel Elam became an encyclopedia of information about Miles, intimate knowledge that any fan would love to learn about. Mikel and I have shared many evening’s reflecting about the life and time’s of the man that was ” Miles Ahead” and here for the first time at Tony Ward Studio, in his own word’s talks about the legends last days….

Solo Works By Mikel Elam,

Solo Works By Mikel Elam

“Near the end of his life Miles commissioned me to create five new painting’s for his Central Park Apartment. One of the last thing’s he said to me in the hospital before his death was, how much he appreciated my artwork and growth as a person. Miles will never know how inspirational he was to me.

There are two things which we can be certain. After birth there will be death. Yet when it happens we are always shocked. It seems like Miles worked almost to the last day of his life, excluding the three weeks in a coma before his passing. The last show was at The Hollywood Bowl. There were the usual legions of celebrities waiting to get a glance, or a few words with the great maestro. I saw Marlon Brando standing outside the entrance of our dressing room. It was a beautiful night.

After the show, Miles rode back to his Malibu home without me. He told me to order some art supplies as he was taking a few week’s off to paint. “Have them delivered”, he said in his raspy voice.

I now lived in Los Angeles full time and Miles was happy I had created a new life for myself out there. He encouraged the move even though he often quoted he was a die hard New Yorker. I began to get concerned when I did not hear from him for several day’s as we usually spoke by phone daily sometimes just to bounce some thought’s around. I called but there was no answer.

One of our mutual friends, Marie Christine called to tell me he was in the hospital. I called him at St. John’s and Miles told me he was only going to be there for one to two day’s, just to check his lung’s. He was prone to pneumonia and was diabetic, so extra precaution’s were taken by hospital staff. He asked me to bring him some friend chicken from a place near where I lived in Hollywood.

I arrived at the hospital and found him sitting in a chair in his room. He was very happy to see me. He was watching television. We talked about everything. He was full of compliment’s for me. I was surprised, as he was always supportive, yet in a less sentimental way. This time it was different, like a father talking to his son.

The next day Miles went into a coma brought on by a stroke. He laid in his hospital bed for about three week’s with his family and closest friend’s around, all hoping he would pull through.

Family had to investigate so many issues. Miles was very close to his brother Vernon and his sister Dorothy. Unfortunately they didn’t have a clue about how to handle his affair’s. I tried to help them with what I knew, yet I only had a small knowledge of his vast empire.

I didn’t expect him to die. Miles was incredibly resilient even though I realized he had a great number of maladies. Somehow he always managed to keep moving, like a phoenix rising out of the ashes.

Many of his friend’s in the inner circle were in a state of shock. Some said thing’s like, “I just talked to him yesterday, he sounded great”. There was a fall tour planned. We all thought we would continue on that splendid journey that everyone knew so well. Now the journey is in my head, even though it has been eighteen year’s since his passing. I still think about Europe in the fall, Japan in the summer, South America in winter and North America in between.”



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