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How Miles Davis Soothed an Aching Heart

Today marks the anniversary of Miles Davis’ death.

The very first time I heard Miles Davis play his trumpet, my mum had just left my dad.

Miles Davis, along with Nat King Cole, The Doors and Nina Simone – in all their shiny black vinyl glory – joined my mother and I, as we bundled ourselves into mum’s Citroën DS and took off for a “nice weekend away” in some now forgotten small New Zealand town.

The funny thing is, although I can’t quite pinpoint the town we stayed in, I remember vividly the smell of the cream 70’s upholstery in the motel we stayed at. I can still taste the warm, sickly-sweet milky tea that mum plyed me with, as she quietly plyed herself with generous gin and tonics to dull her pain.

I remember these things as if it were an hour ago. But most of all, I remember the music.

As my mamma fell apart, mourning the death of her marriage, I played with my Barbies to Miles’ soothing, soulful trumpet. And in those moments, Miles and I became life long friends.

It’s funny – every time I now hear Miles Davis, a small part of me is immediately transported back to that poignant 48 hours. To being a not-quite nine year old, witnessing deep grief and suffering in another human being for the first time.

Every time I hear Miles Davis’ haunting melodies, it catapults me back like an unwilling time traveller, to that motel – with its tea, gin, squeaky cream upholstery and flickering neon sign. In these moments, I have more compassion for my mother than I ever thought possible.

What a difficult, difficult time it must have been for her.

Today’s post doesn’t have much to do with leadership.

It has a lot to do with music, memories and how art – music, poetry, writing or art in any of its guises – is crucial for a meaningful human existence.

From the cave drawings made by our ancestors at the dawn of time, to the music that every culture has at its core of its expression of who they are, art lets our heart and soul compellingly express our existence.

It’s a non-judgemental companion on the journey of being human.

And so, I want to say thank you Miles. Thank you music. And thank you art.

Thank you for journeying with me as I’ve stumbled and as I’ve soared. Thanks for being my companion and helping me make meaning. For stopping me in my tracks and making me catch my breath in awe.

And most of all, for soothing the soul of a forty-something woman whose heart was breaking – and a nine year old child who witnessed that heartbreak.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on September 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Loved this piece Suzi – beautifully written and heart felt. xx

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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