From Miles to Petty: Regretting missed opportunities

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Missing an opportunity to see your favorite artists perform stings, even 26 years later.

Submitted: October 03, 2017

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Submitted: October 03, 2017



The loss of yet another musical great continues to dredge up memories from my past -- and regrets of missed opportunities.
Tom Petty died Monday after a cardiac event at age 66 and along with other musical favorites of mine over the past two years, their deaths remind me of a deep sting I felt 26 years ago when my musical idol Miles Davis passed.
My memories of Miles start in middle school when I first picked up a trumpet and delved into everything jazz. The idea that I could produce similar (yet not nearly as round) sounds as musical greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Wynton Marsalis and Maynard Ferguson excited me, but the sounds of Miles pulled me deeper into my instrument.
As I grew in experience with my trumpet, so did my musical interests, and with direction from a great band teacher, more musical influences presented themselves -- but Miles was always there for me.
Compact disc players burst onto the scene around that time and a boom box Christmas present from my parents sent me searching for my first CD purchases. With only enough cash to buy two discs my picks would baffle many, but would become the building block for my kaleidoscope-like iPod shuffle: "...And Justice For All" by Metallica and "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis.
I grew up a fan of rock and heavy metal (as well as early rap) and Metallica was really breaking out in 1988 so that choice made sense to my friends, but Miles Davis? I must have been headbanging too much.
The sounds on "Kind of Blue" pulled me closer to the man behind them and, in this pre-internet time period, I searched for all things written about Miles. Downbeat magazine proved to be a solid outlet and as I earned money by mowing lawns I found myself back at the music store buying more Miles CDs.
"Birth of the Cool," "In a Silent Way," "Sketches of Spain," and "Tutu" all followed, as did some foreign live recordings.
The more I learned about Miles, the more I wanted to see him perform live. The struggles in his life (a heroin addiction, issues with racism and fame and his need to create outside of everyone's box) had me searching for news of future tours.
That all ended in September of 1991 shortly after I graduated from high school as I learned of his death due to complications surrounding a stroke.
Heartbroken that I'd never get the chance to see my musical idol, I dove further into his work, picking up obscure EPs from overseas and searching mom & pop record stores for albums I hadn't heard of (He released over 50 studio albums and 36 live albums).
As time passed I learned that seeing musical artists in a live setting was a chance to become part of their experience; to watch them create; to get a sense for who they really were.
Tool, Metallica and Megadeth mosh pits came (and went) with a fury and I've never lost my love of the live music experience. 
The loss of Miles helped me identify my need to experience favorite artists in a live setting, it's why I've seen Bruce Springsteen four times, Megadeth (four) Metallica (three), Tool & A Perfect Circle (4).
There are plenty I missed out on (Prince, David Bowie, George Michael and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead to name a few), and now Tom Petty.
There are bigger problems in this country than the loss of these artists and the shooting rampage in Las Vegas reminds us of that quickly. But it's also a sharp poke on the forehead to remind us that life is fleeting, it's here then it's not.
Cherish the experiences with those you love, whether you know them or not.
Today I'm feeling Kind of Blue.

© Copyright 2018 Cory Olsen. All rights reserved.

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