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Miles Davis' Manhattan Home Gets Recognition

by Chris Williams
A A

Jeremy Chan, flickr

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Center places medallion on jazz musician's Upper West Side home.

Miles Davis lived in a brownstone on West 77th Street for 25 years, from 1958 to 1983. While he was there, he composed the popular album Kind of Blue.

Shirley Zafirau, a licensed tour guide, has lived on the street since 1964. Zafirau said contrary to Davis' rough-around-the-edges persona, he was a great guy.

One day, she was walking down the street and he pulled up next to her in his car. He asked where she was going, and when she told him she was on her way to work, he offered to drive her.
 
"I just about dropped my teeth," she said, "So I got into the car and had a nice chat with him going down then whenever he would see me he'd say 'Going to work?" I'd say 'Yeah,' and he'd say 'Hop in, I'll give you a lift.'"
 
The neighborhood was predominately white, and when Davis would answer the door to building workers, they didn't believe he owned the building.
 
Zafirau said by the time she moved in, things were better in terms of race, but Davis' struggle with race came through in his music.
 
"There's a certain plaintiveness and sadness to his tone," she said, "I know that being judged by his color initially was a painful experience for him."
 
Zafirau said she could hear Davis and his pals playing music from her backyard. According to her, the neighborhood was special back then, made up of individuals.
 
"People didn't try to blend in," she said, "They had personalities. It was a great neighborhood. It still is."
 
A few years ago, Zafirau tried to get the street named after Davis, but the plan hasn't come through yet.
 
Other notables who lived in the neighborhood during Davis' time include Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, and Shelley Winters.

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