The Universe of

Miles Davis

Miles Davis’ legacy, represented by every Wikipedia page that mentions him

This year, Miles Davis would have turned 90 years old. 25 years after his death, he’s still synonymous with Jazz, but you can find his fingerprints on so many other ideas.

Let’s examine his legacy by sorting through every Wikipedia page (in English) on which he’s mentioned. This approach not only highlights his recordings and collaborators, but also wraps our arms around everything else, such as mentions in Kendrick Lamar’s “influence” section and the “notable usage” section for Motherfucker.

The Lasting Mark of Miles Davis

The 2,000 Wikipedia Pages on Which Miles Davis Is Mentioned

Circle Size: Among Pages on Which Miles Appears...

Page is mentioned less frequently

Page is mentioned more frequently

To create this list, we combed Wikipedia for every English page that links to the Miles Davis entry, which is about 2,452 articles across hundreds of topics. A few highlights:

Pages like these give us a wider, more comprehensive view of Miles’ impact on culture. His Wikipedia page is an amazingly condense synopsis of Miles’ life, but it only links to about 10% of the dataset. ← the Miles Davis Wikipedia entry links to pages highlighted in red

Let’s get a better understanding of the 2,000 pages that mention Miles Davis. Here’s a breakdown by category:

The People pages include typical jazz icons such as John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Herbie Hancock, but also contemporaries (James Baldwin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix) and influencees (including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell).

Recordings are the next largest category, which includes anything you can listen to: tracks, albums, compositions, and compilations. Most of these are in Miles Davis’ discography or involve him in some way. Other recording pages include To Pimp a Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar was influenced by Miles), 2001 (Dr. Dre was compared to Miles Davis by critics), and Ready to Die (Biggie sampled Miles on a track).

Other is a catch-all category for everything else. We grouped references on pages for companies (Columbia Records), books (On the Road, which references Miles in the plot), TV shows (Miami Vice, Miles guest-starred), cultural references (Beatnik, cool), music theory (Harmonization, Coltrane Changes, Contrafact, Duophonic), genres (Bebop, Funk, Salsa) and other random pages (drug user, french horn).

So that’s where Miles Davis is mentioned. Let’s now look at how he’s mentioned.

How miles is referenced

Mentions of Miles Davis on Wikipedia, by Page’s Section and Era*

First, we sorted the Wikipedia pages by year, which gives us a better sense of how Miles was referenced throughout his career (*for pages without an obvious year, we ignored it or used birth-year if it was a person).

We expected Wikipedia pages to increase in the years in which Miles released an album (Wikipedia pages are often created for each track and entries are added to collaborators’ career’s section). But references to Miles continue well after his death in 1991 (though Wikipedia certainly favors contemporary topics).

Next, we aggregated each Miles Davis reference into categories. For example, the Greenwich Village page mentions Miles Davis’ role in the neighborhood’s history. The anecdote on D'Angelo’s Brown Sugar page references his early exposure to Miles Davis via his mother – a clear instance of influence.

We also broke-out Miles Davis references in the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia pages, which suggests he was intimately related to the topic.

Here’s a breakdown of the pages:

Let’s take a closer look at the influence category, where Miles is referenced as an influence, for example, on the pages for Radiohead’s Kid A and Wilco.

To simplify things, we'll focus on people and recordings, while also removing 50 obscure pages (under 50,000 visits last year)

Let’s take a deeper look at the influence section, examining each of the individual 800 dots. To simplify things, we'll focus on people and recordings, while also removing 50 obscure pages (under 50,000 visits last year).

Who Miles Influenced

Mentions of Miles Davis on Wikipedia as an Influencer of a Person or Recording

Here are the exact quotes from each of the 87 Wikipedia entries of people and recordings that were influenced by Miles Davis.

Highlights include: Carlos Santana, Brian Eno, Flea, Rick James, Prince, Skyzoo, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, and Lana Del Ray.

The Miles Davis Estate and Legacy Recordings/Sony Music graciously helped make this article possible (lots of other content to celebrate Miles’ 90th is available here). They’ve also put together a couple playlists to get your Miles groove on: Apple, Spotify.