Clive Davis on Five Decades in the Music Biz

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Clive Davis talks about shaping the last 50 years of popular music. He has discovered, signed, or worked with Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Dionne Warwick, Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Aretha Franklin, to name a few. The Soundtrack of My Life tells his story—of becoming an orphan in high school and getting through college and law school on scholarships, to being falsely accused of embezzlement and starting up his own record company, J Records. 


Clive Davis

Comments [13]

Mike from Tribeca

vKarl from NY -- Davis is technically correct about "signing" Springsteen, in the sense that he signed the first check. The rest was all about Hammond's eye and ears for raw talent.

Mar. 06 2013 12:43 PM
Carol Davis

Please thank Clive Davis for sending me a Gil Scott Heron hat in response to a letter I sent him in the 70s!

Mar. 06 2013 12:42 PM
fuva from harlemworld

RIP, Whitney!

Mar. 06 2013 12:42 PM
Carol Davis

Please tell Clive Davis thank you for sending me a Gilscot Heron hacked after I wrote him a letter in the 1970s

Mar. 06 2013 12:40 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, Sheldon, that's my point. He is known beyond industry types and music heads (like myself) because of her...

On another note, can't see how the "artists" today could have a long shelf life. What are Clive's thoughts about the Beibers and Rihannas of today?

Mar. 06 2013 12:37 PM
Er-nay from UWS

What does he think is (or will be ) the future of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Does it have to be strictly "Rock and Roll"?

Mar. 06 2013 12:35 PM
vKarl from NY

Clive Davis signed Springsteen ??

Didn't John Hammond "discover" Bruce ?

Mar. 06 2013 12:33 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The fact is, bands make money from touring, while radio makes money from advertising, while record labels USED to make money selling records and the rights to use the music they own.
For music acts and bands, records were only the means to get bookings, and radio was the way to get audiences to know the bands. That has mostly changed.
The internet, particularly Youtube, allows many acts to become known to a wide audience for next to nothing. Still getting booked by a nighttime TV show can still get some acts out more familiar to a wider audience.

Still the way bands make money, if at all, is by getting their acts booked and touring from venue to venue.

Mar. 06 2013 12:28 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Sorry Fuva - perhaps, people who are not into music think so, but for the rest of us - Whitney Houston, is just a part of Mr Davis' extraordinary career. She did not make or break him. He is Arista Records.

Mar. 06 2013 12:23 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Does Clive Davis miss vinyl records? What does he think about digital music sales and the way it has transformed the music industry?

Mar. 06 2013 12:18 PM
Mike from Tribeca

1) Has Mr. Davis apologized yet for foisting Eric Carmen upon us?

2) His Alan Arkin impression is not quite there yet.

Mar. 06 2013 12:16 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Not feeling ol' self-promotional svengali Clive. Most people know his name because of Whitney Houston. And that he partied under her dead body that fateful February night is, I think, telling. I wonder if the stories he tells redeem him.

Mar. 06 2013 12:12 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I recently read Tony Bennett's memoir, the "Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett" and Mr. Bennett did not have many nice things to say about Davis. He mentioned several times that he had to constantly fight Davis to record what he Bennett wanted to record, HIS repertoire, and Davis was always trying to coerce him (and others and not in a nice way) to record commercial schlock.

It would seem that Davis did not recognize or appreciate at least SOME of the talent he had in his stable and that talent's need to stay true to its mission and self.

Incidentally, with the way things were going for decades in the world of rock & pop, MANY record labels and producers could point to dozens of big hits & acts. Sadly, the musical world today still revolve around rock & roll and its offspring, so picking a handful of winners doesn't seem that difficult to do. What about all the failures we never heard about?

Mar. 06 2013 11:48 AM

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