Miles Davis Syndrome

I have been playing around with the notion of Miles Davis Syndrome, for some time now. A person has Miles Davis Syndrome if they are clearly an asshole, but they produce great work. It has been recognized many times, but I’m not sure of anyone else who came up with a label for it. I took the name from the phenomenal Jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader, who recorded some of the best records in the history of his genre, assembled some of the finest jazz ensembles ever, but was widely acknowledge to be very difficult to get along with and was even known to have inspired younger jazz musicians to act like assholes themselves, as a means of imitating him.

I recently read “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk” which feels like an in depth study of this phenomenon. There is even instance where in the book where Danny Fields is discussing what a complete asshole Lou Reed is, as well as Richard Hell and the members of the Stooges, New York Dolls, MC5, Television and the Heartbreakers. He laments that they are great, but they are all assholes. As noted the before, the book details many instances of these individuals behaving as such, and is a great read.

Apparently it is still a somewhat common phenomenon in the music world as detailed by Anthony Fantano here:

In other media, I have noticed that Ricky Gervais, produces awesome stuff, but also does things like this:

I think the most extreme example, I have found so far is that of Phil Spector, who despite being one of the best record producers ever (known for his work with the Crystals, the Ronettes, Tina Turner, The Beatles and the Ramones), is now in prison for murder. He also has a history of pulling guns on musicians he is working with or women he is dating.

I’m sure other examples abound, but this is enough for my readers to get the idea. It makes me wonder what, exactly the relationship is between brilliance in one’s field and dickish behavior. Perhaps, we are all dickish at times and people put in the spotlight simply find theirs is made public more often.

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