Miles Davis and the White Rabbit

What follows is a little bit off the beaten path for this blog, but I had such a wonderful musical discovery recently that I wanted to share it with you. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with eating right, exercising or living longer. It’s just personal.

Music has always been integral to my life. I remember sitting mesmerized listening to hit songs over our radio as a child in the 1940’s. Fast forward to the sixties and I was a weed whacker digging the Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit from their best selling Surrealistic Pillow album. Strong feeling of deja vu writing the word ‘album.’ How many kids today even have that word in their vocabularies?

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Anyway, I consider White Rabbit to be a masterpiece of a song particularly as rendered by Grace Slick’s powerful voice. A masterpiece in terms of music as well as metaphor. I still have it on my iPod today.

Before I go further with this let me remind you of the opening lines of the song which I am sure you have heard at some time in your life: “One pill makes you larger; one pill makes you small. And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all.” For me this line demonstrated the dichotomy between the generations at the time besides being hauntingly beautiful musically.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to run across a Wall Street Journal write up  on Grace Slick and how she came to write and perform White Rabbit.


This is a good sound reproduction and you get to see all the lyrics

The 74 year old Slick said, “I loved ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’ The stuff Alice drank and ate made her high [tall] or brought her down [small]. There were all kinds of drug metaphors in there. The ’60s were very much like that.

“When the lyrics were done, I took the sheet of paper to the red piano and worked on the chords, writing the names of the ones I liked over the phrases. I wrote the song in F-sharp minor, a key that’s ideal for my voice. Minor chords have a certain darkness and sadness.

“The music I came up with was based on a slow Spanish march or bolero that builds in intensity. I’ve always had a thing for Spanish folk music. Back in 1963, Jerry and I were living with Darby and his girlfriend in San Francisco on Potrero Hill. One day we took acid and I put on Miles Davis’s ‘Sketches of Spain.’

“I loved that album and I listened to it over and over for hours, particularly ‘Concierto de Aranjuez,’ which takes up most of the first side. It’s hypnotic. I’ve always been like this. Anything I love I’m going to cram into my ears, nose and mouth until I use it up. ‘Sketches of Spain’ was drilled into my head and came squirting out in various ways as I wrote ‘White Rabbit.’”

Here is the magical part for me. I also love Miles Davis and listen to his music all the time, particularly the Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans. So, I learned, fifty years after the fact, that two of my favorite pieces of music are joined at the hip. Nice.

I hope you have the time to listen to them. Each is still magical for me.

Tony

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1 Comment

Filed under music listening

One response to “Miles Davis and the White Rabbit

  1. Thanks for sharing these two pieces. Music is a great source of joy and a wonderful release for tension. Music “soothes the soul.”

    Liked by 1 person

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