Claim: Musician Miles Davis made a crude remark upon meeting First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Example: [Wilde, 2011]
Origins: Miles Davis was an American jazz trumpeter, characterized as follows on Wikipedia:
According to an anecdote published in a September 2011 Guardian article about Davis, during that reception the musician supposedly offered the "choice words" quoted above to Nancy Reagan when the First Lady failed to recognize his significance.
However, not even Miles Davis claims this account to be true. The anecdote appears to be a conflation of two different encounters with politicians that Davis experienced during the Kennedy Center Honors events and wrote about in his 1990 autobiography.
In that 1990 autobiography, Davis mentioned nothing about his making a cutting remark to Mrs. Reagan; in fact, he had nothing but kind words to say about meeting her:
This came from out of the blue. I don't like questions like that because they're just questions from someone who's trying to sound intelligent, when in fact they don't give a damn about it. I looked at her and said, "What is it? Jazz time or something? Why you ask me some shit like that?"
So she said, "Well, you're a jazz musician, aren't you?"
So I said, "I'm a musician, that's all" [...] "Do you really want to know why jazz music isn't given the credit in this country?" [...] "Jazz is ignored here because the white man likes to win everything. White people like to see other white people win just like you do and they can't win when it comes to jazz and blues because black people created this. And so when we play in Europe, white people over there appreciate us because they know who did what and they will admit it. But most white Americans won't."
She looked at me and turned all red and shit, and then she said, "Well, what have you done that's so important in your life? Why are you here?"
Now, I just hate shit like this coming from someone who is ignorant, but who wants to be hip and has forced you into a situation where you're talking to them in this manner. She brought this on herself. So then I said, "Well, I changed music five or six times, so I guess that's what I've done and I guess I don't believe in playing just white compositions." I looked at her real cold and said, "Now, tell me what have you done of any importance other than being white, and that ain't important to me, so tell me what your claim to fame is?"
Davis, Miles and Quincy Troupe. Miles: The Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989. ISBN 0-671-63504-2 (pp. 380-381). Wilde, Jon. "Miles Davis: His Wardrobe, His Wit, His Way with a Basketball ..." The Guardian. 28 September 2011. Associated Press. "Kennedy Centre Honors Lucille Ball, Ray Charles." The Ottawa Citizen. 8 December 1986 (p B9).