The City of New York honored one of its most influential residents last week by unveiling its newly renamed street, “Miles Davis Way,” in honor of Jazz legend, Miles Davis, on the Upper West Side of the city.
Miles Davis would have been 88 on May 26, the day hundreds of people gathered in New York at the unveiling ceremony of the newly named street, which covered a stretch of 77th Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue on the Upper West Side, according to the New York Times. The legendary trumpeter lived in an apartment building on that same block for 25 years, until the mid-1980s, at 312 West 77th Street.
According to USA Today, the campaign for the new street sign was led by Davis’ one-time neighbor Shirley Zafirau. The renaming was signed into law last December by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In an interview with CBS News, Zaifirau described her former neighbor as a “one-on-one” kind of man, and described a time in the late 1960s when she was walking to work and Davis pulled alongside her in his sports car.
“Where’s work?” she remembered him asking in his raspy voice.
“The Garment District,” she told him and with that, he offered her a ride.
Zafirau says other people in the neighborhood had similar interactions with Davis, but it wasn’t until she began working to obtain a tour-guide license that the idea of naming the street in his honor occurred to her.
Zafirau said in her interview that during her studies and trips to Harlem that she noticed some of the New York Streets were named for other well-known musicians, including Duke Ellington.
Zafirau recalled West 77th Street churning out some of Davis’ most celebrated albums like, “Kind of Blue” and “Bitches Brew,” and other jazz legends like Herbie Hancock to Dizzy Gillespie also made their way to Davis’ apartment to jam.
In 2009, Davis’ former neighbor decided she would try to rename West 77th Street for Davis, and after five years of her efforts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally signed a bill last December officially renaming the block “Miles Davis Way.”
According to reports, hundreds of people turned out for the ceremony, which left Zafirau in shock at her own efforts.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing’ and then I knew what I had done was the right thing to do.”
Zafirau says her motivation was a combination of neighborhood pride, and a hope that younger generations would learn about Davis and his music
Davis died of pneumonia, respiratory failure and a stroke in 1991. He was 65.
[Images via Bing and Earl Gibson]